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A Tennessee student is speaking out with new details in a controversy that erupted over a prom dress.
College freshman Jacob Geittmann was taking his partner, Dalton Stevens, 18, a high school senior, to prom on April 24 when the young men were allegedly harassed with “homophobic banter” by a middle-aged man at the Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin.
The perpetrator was later revealed as Sam Johnson, the CEO of Tennessee-based telemedicine company VisuWell.
Geittmann was dressed in a suit while Stevens donned a bright red tulle gown for the once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
“[Stevens] decided he wanted to wear a dress for senior prom to break the stigma around men wearing dresses. He looked gorgeous, everybody loved it, nobody had a problem with it,” Geittmann says in a two-minute video that unpacks the incident.
The student said he and a group of other promgoers had made a stop at the hotel to take photos before the event. Just as the group was gathering to leave, “this man comes up, stands about an inch behind my boyfriend and goes, ‘What are you wearing?’” Geittmann says.
At Stevens’ response — “A dress, why?” — Johnson allegedly taunted, “Why are you wearing that? You shouldn’t be wearing that.”
Geittmann says Johnson then launched into a tirade: “You look disgusting, you look ridiculous, you look like an idiot, men shouldn’t be wearing this.”
That’s the point at which the young man decided to hit record.
His videos of the incident, apparently a truncated version of the events, show Johnson lurking near the two promgoers with a noticeable smirk. While many of Johnson’s comments are inaudible, footage does capture the man attempting to swat Geittmann’s phone from his hands. Adult voices can also be heard in the background pleading with Johnson to let up on the couple.
“It’s just prom. It’s kids — it’s a bunch of kids,” a disembodied voice can be heard telling Johnson.
“At this point,” Geittmann says, “the hotel staff had gotten word,” when Johnson begins to play dumb — in spite of the recording.
Johnson was reportedly then booted from hotel premises, escorted by the Franklin Police Department, Storyful has confirmed.
VisuWell announced Monday that Johnson had been ousted from the company, and said they “unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson.”
“We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks,” VisuWell concluded in their statement.
Johnson has since come forward for interviews with Newsweek, Newsmax and right-wing news site Daily Wire, claiming that he and his family had been “doxxed” as a result of the viral video. The embattled executive called the allegations “entirely false” and claimed the heated exchange “wasn’t anything personal or involving a dress.”
It was “obnoxious” teenagers and their “loud cursing,” Johnson claimed, that provoked him, adding that they had been “causing a scene” at the hotel while taking prom portraits.
He also clarified that he was not following Stevens across the courtyard to intimidate him. Rather, he was attempting to get around the teenagers, to return to his family inside the hotel dining room. And, in dispute with Storyful’s claim, Johnson said that he and his family left the restaurant of their own volition, not because police were called to the scene.
“I have no ill will towards anyone or their personal choices, so long as it does not harm me or my family,” Johnson said.