Sweetgreen CEO Walks Back Coronavirus Claims: ‘The Words I Chose Were Insensitive’

In a new LinkedIn post, Sweetgreen co-founder and CEO Jonathan Neman walked back his earlier comments on the coronavirus a week after he proclaimed that “no vaccine nor mask will save us” from the pandemic.

“My intention was not to be discriminatory or to discount the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing masks to combat COVID-19,” he said in the new post. “Wearing masks and getting vaccinated works to protect against COVID-19. Full stop.”

Earlier, Neman claimed that “our best bet is to learn how to best live with [the virus] and focus on overall health vs preventing infection.” His comments came as the Culver City salad chain gears up for an initial public offering.

The startup best known for selling $14 salads confirmed in June it confidentially filed for an IPO. Earlier this year the company was valued at $1.8 billion.

Neman wrote in the original post, “What if we made the food that is making us sick illegal? What if we taxed processed food and refined sugar to pay for the impact of the pandemic?”

The first post, which went up on Sept. 1, immediately attracted attention, with Motherboard first reporting on it and other media piling on.

In the latest post, Neman said in a near-apology that he intended to “start a conversation around the systemic healthcare issues in the country.” The executive added, “Words matter and the words I chose were insensitive and oversimplified a very complex issue that is impacted by larger socioeconomic factors.”

Neman reportedly stuck a different tone In an internal meeting with staff. The executive said he stands “behind the intent” of his earlier comments, and that the lesson he learned was to consult with his PR team, Motherboard reports. “We have a great team that could have helped craft that message in a way to not be so divisive and to be more effective,” he said.