A man who was accused of telling Korean-American entrepreneur Sophia Chang, 28, to “go back to Wuhan” was fired from his job Tuesday at Prudential, a Newark-based financial advising firm, the company confirmed.
Around 6 p.m. on Sept. 12, Sophia Chang and her sister were eating dinner at Bluewater Grill in Newport Beach, California when the man “made direct eye contact” with the women and told them to “go back to Wuhan” as he headed to the bathroom, Chang wrote in an Instagram post. When the man returned from the bathroom and the women questioned him, she says he responded, “I don’t speak Chinese.” This comment is not seen in the video.
Following the incident, Chang posted the video to her Instagram where it racked up over 800,000 views. The post — which does not show the “go back to Wuhan” comment — sparked outrage, with people calling for the man to be identified and held accountable for his alleged comments. The man was identified as a financial representative for Prudential, which confirmed his firing.
In a follow-up post on September 15, Chang wrote that the man “looked like he was denying everything” when approached by the manager at his table, but when the manager left he “would stare us down with this look as if he knew he just got away with what he said.”
The same day, the financial advising firm Prudential wrote in a tweet, “Prudential has zero tolerance for discrimination and takes allegations about an incident in Newport Beach very seriously. This matter will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken, as warranted.”
Prudential has zero tolerance for discrimination and takes allegations about an incident in Newport Beach very seriously. This matter will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken, as warranted.
— Prudential (@Prudential) September 15, 2020
On Tuesday, the company said it concluded its investigation into the Newport Beach incident. “We have made the decision to end our relationship the financial representative involved,” Prudential said in a tweet.
After thoroughly investigating the incident in Newport Beach, we have made the decision to end our relationship with the financial representative involved.
— Prudential (@Prudential) September 22, 2020
The man has since deleted his LinkedIn page and when contacted by NBC News would not comment on the matter as advised by his lawyer.
His alleged “go back to Wuhan” comment is in reference to the Chinese city in which the Covid-19 pandemic is believed to have started. Sophia Chang is Korean American.
Chang, a popular social media influencer with over 800,000 Youtube subscribers and her own clothing line, wrote she and her sister went to the Bluewater Grill “to have a nice dinner outdoors” and “said nothing” to the man before he racially accosted them. “I will never forget that moment and it replays over and over in my head,” she wrote.
Bluewater Grill, where the incident happened, condemned the remarks Chang described.
“We pride ourselves on our customer service, diverse staff and commitment to a safe environment free of racism or harassment”, the Newport Beach restaurant said in an Instagram post. “We do not condone prejudice or racism in any form.” The restaurant added, “The patron in question is no longer welcome at Bluewater Grill.”
Prior to their statement, some called out the restaurant for not immediately removing the man from their premises. “We wanted to make sure the situation did not escalate or become hostile,” the restaurant said in the statement in response to the criticism.
The video captures what is the tail end of the incident. The man is seen telling a Bluewater Grill employee, “I have no idea what she’s talking about,” before returning to his table. Sophia’s sister, Robin Chang, is then heard telling the employee, “If he’s not going to be removed from the restaurant, we’re leaving.” The employee said she’d handle it.
“I feel so fortunate that I have a platform where I am able to share my experience and shine a light on racism against Asians,” Sophia wrote. “I know I am just one person, but I hope shedding a light on this encourages anyone who deals with racial harassment to SPEAK UP.”