North Carolina-based Keller Williams agent Chris Carlan is now without a job, thanks to a billboard he commissioned peddling a popular conspiracy theory about the coronavirus pandemic.
The billboard went viral in the r/gso subreddit, a Reddit group that includes more than 20,500 members living in Greensboro. User ExpatInKorea snapped a picture of the billboard, which featured Neo-Nazi meme Pepe the Frog alongside a call for buyers “tired of the plandemic” to move to the country with the help of Chris, a real estate agent.
More than 109 subreddit members commented on the billboard, which was prominently placed on Highway 68 near the Piedmont Triad International Airport. “I’ve been meaning to take this same picture, I pass it every day on my way to work,” wrote one Redditor. “I’m also very curious to text the guy and see what his sales pitch entails.”
“I hate that sign,” another Redditor added. “What’s it even supposed to mean?”
The sign refers to “Plandemic,” a year-old documentary that claimed the coronavirus pandemic was created by the U.S. government and pharmaceutical companies to make a profit. Facebook and YouTube pulled the video down in May 2020, but not before it garnered 8 million views and reinforced fears about the safety of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine rollouts.
After searching his phone number, several Redditors said they’d plan to call Keller Williams about the sign. “Not going to text him, but submitted a complaint to Keller Williams corporate,” another user said. “He’s using a neo-Nazi hate symbol for his advertising.”
Keller Williams ONE Broker-in-Charge Bill Warmath told local outlet News & Record he was unaware of Carlan’s billboard until Redditors began calling his brokerage. “It was installed without the permission of the then-Broker-In-Charge of our firm,” Warmath told News & Record on Monday. “As a result, once I found out about its existence, I required it to be removed as soon as possible.”
Although Carlan’s Keller Williams profile is still live as of Tuesday afternoon, his Instagram and Facebook profiles have been scrubbed. Carlan joined Keller Williams ONE in June 2019 and joined Chris Pappalardo Team in November 2019 and left Pappalardo’s team in May 2020.
He’s still listed as a Keller Williams ONE agent on Zillow with his last recorded sale in March 2021, and has been operating as an independent agent. Carlan’s license is still active, although he’s no longer listed as an agent on the TRIAD MLS.
Neither Carlan nor Keller Williams were available for comment at the time of publication. However, Warmath sent an emailed statement to Inman, saying Carlan’s billboard did not align with Keller William’s values.
“Our company’s Leadership and I felt very strongly that the billboard projected inaccurate and inflammatory content that absolutely did not reflect the core values and guiding principles of Keller Williams,” he said. “As a result, once aware of its existence, I required it to be removed as soon as possible, which was completed within about a one-week period.”
“That agent is no longer affiliated with our Keller Williams ONE office,” he added.
In a phone conversation with Inman, Pappalardo said he was “as surprised as anyone to hear about that billboard.”
In the meantime, Lamar Advertising has removed the billboard, saying they’ve launched a formal investigation into how the messaging was approved.
“While we do not accept or reject copy based on agreement or disagreement with the views expressed, we do reserve the right to reject any copy found to be factually inaccurate, obscene or offensive,” Lamar representative Allie McAlpin told News and Record.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article mischaracterized Carlan’s relationship with Chris Pappalardo’s Team. He joined the team in November 2019 but left in May 2020. We apologize for any confusion about Carlan’s affiliation with Pappalardo or Keller Williams ONE.