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The Wall Street Journal: Estée Lauder suspends exec for Instagram post that contained racial slur


Estée Lauder Cos.

has suspended a top executive without pay following backlash over a post on his personal Instagram account that contained a racial slur and jokes about COVID-19.

The New York-based cosmetics company suspended John Demsey, who serves as executive group president and oversees a portfolio of brands including MAC and Clinique.

A meme posted Monday to Demsey’s Instagram account pictured a spoof book cover of the children’s TV show “Sesame Street.” The post, which contained the N-word with some letters replaced with asterisks, no longer appears on Demsey’s account.

“Effective immediately, John Demsey is being placed on unpaid leave due to content posted on his Instagram handle,” Chief Executive Fabrizio Freda and Chairman William Lauder said in an internal memo to company leaders Tuesday. An excerpt of the memo was viewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“The content posted does not represent the values of The Estée Lauder Companies,” the memo said. “As a company deeply committed to inclusive actions and behavior, and in line with our company policies, our employees and our leadership are accountable for upholding these values.”

An expanded version of this report appears on

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