said 12 months ago:
Were the CEO comments misinterpreted? Is there merit in the FB community and website visitors having a negative reaction? Has the print media picked up on this? Is the company public? Are there other channels this sentiment is showing up in?
There are so many considerations, thus why all companies should have a crisis communications plan in place, especially when partaking in social media. I’m assuming one doesn’t exist and you’re in reactive mode.
Without more information, in my opinion you’ll need an official and sincere statement from the CEO to clarify, and not necessarily apologize for his comment – unless there is a strong need to do so. Then you need to circulate that statement in various forms and on whatever media where the sentiment is showing up. Continue to engage from the clarification position as needed and convey to your communities they are being heard.
Then – ride it out with demonstrations of positive reinforcement showing your sincerity in both company business decisions and in public communications.