Owner of SC pizza chain says viral video claiming his company fired vaccinated employees is false

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Published: Oct. 6, 2021 at 7:43 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS)- A TikTok video showing a South Carolina man saying he fired more than 40 employees for being vaccinated has been viewed more than 80,000 times.

But the owner of the restaurants that man is associated with says no employees at his businesses have been fired because of their vaccination status. In fact, the manager who made that video has been fired.

Michael Brown owns four restaurants around Lexington county. His businesses included three Paparoni’s Pizzeria & Grills in Swansea, Pelion, and Gaston and a barbeque restaurant.

He says his now-former district manager, Jody, made the video as satire in response to businesses imposing vaccine mandates and firing unvaccinated workers.

The video was picked up by another TikTok user who used elements from the post to figure out what restaurant Jody was associated with and the name of the owner of the company. However, while Brown was correctly named as the owner he was not the person in the video.

“It was a completely fabricated story, he had, I’m not going to say good intentions because it was a bad idea, but he wanted to trigger people based on this vaccination hot topic and he wanted to flip that to say this is how we feel about people being terminated for not being vaccinated,” Brown said.

Brown says since the video gained traction Tuesday night, he has received thousands of threats. He says he made attempts to respond to criticism online and didn’t mean to come off as harsh to those he replied to.

A lot of the comments center around Brown being on the National Mall in Washington, DC on the day of the riots on Capitol Hill. Brown says he was there, as was Jody, but he never entered the Capitol and has already given a statement to the FBI.

He also says three employees quit Wednesday morning because they no longer wanted to be associated with the restaurants and he is sad to lose them and Jody because of this.

“It is somewhat of a tragic situation for [Jody] and for us as a company. He has been a good employee. It was just a stupid idea. It was a dumb thing to do,” Brown said. “It would not only be illegal, but so stupid to have actually done that. I mean anyone would side with the employees on that. We are a restaurant we are struggling for help. We are certainly not going to terminate half of our workforce illegally.”

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