Cheesecake Factory says it suspended employees for mocking black customer's MAGA hat

Eugenior Joseph
Eugenior Joseph

It wasn't so great in America on Mother's Day at the Cheesecake Factory, according to a 22-year-old man who said he was singled out because of his skin color and the bright, red cap he was wearing that was adorned with the president's favorite slogan.

"Make America Great Again," was all it said.

Eugenior Joseph said those simple words drew about a dozen employees of the restaurant at Dadeland Mall to his table. They pointed at him and the hat, he said. They made snide comments. Some giggled. It became so uncomfortable, Joseph said, that his entourage — which included his girlfriend and her mother — got up and left and called police.

"I'm 100 percent sure it's because I'm black and I'm wearing a Make America Great Again hat," Joseph said.

The incident was first reported on the conservative-leaning website the DailyWire. In a response to the story, the Cheesecake Factory sent the website a tweet on its verified Twitter account saying the employees involved had been suspended until an investigation of the incident is complete.

"No guest should ever feel unwelcome in one of our restaurants and we are taking this matter very seriously. Upon learning of this incident, we immediately apologized to the guests in person," the tweet reads.

Calls to the Cheesecake Factory's headquarters in Calabasas, Calif., were not returned. As of Tuesday afternoon, Joseph said he had not received correspondence from the Cheesecake Factory offering any type of apology . A woman named Maria who said she was a manager at the Dadeland Mall location told the Miami Herald the company was "taking this matter very seriously" and referred the caller to the company's corporate headquarters. She would not confirm if anyone had been suspended.

Joseph said it was mid-afternoon Sunday when a large group including his girlfriend and her mother headed over to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate Mother's Day. They weren't seated long, he said, when someone in the group pointed out a waitress who was standing behind him pointing at his hat.

Then, Joseph and others in the group said, other employees joined in. Soon, it felt as if the entire staff of the Cheesecake Factory was closing in on him and his favorite red ball cap

"A guy said, 'I want to knock the hat off your head," said Joseph, who plans on taking summer classes at Florida International University. "I really love Trump. It's my sole reason for getting into politics."

Joseph's group left and his mother-in-law called the police. As they were leaving, Joseph said a store manager came forward and apologized. The one-paragraph Miami-Dade police report says no harm, no foul.

"Upon arrival, we made contact with reporting person [Jennifer Restrepo] who advised that she felt uncomfortable due to several employees gathering around her table and cracking their knuckles. The unknown employees also made comments to knock off a hat worn by other [Eugene Joseph] that stated "Make America Great Again." No threats were made. No physical altercation occurred," wrote the responding officer.

Since the Daily Wire first reported the story it's made its way through the conservative blogosphere. Fox News even picked up a version. And Joseph said he's scheduled to appear on Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning.

"I really love Trump," said the former high school basketball standout at Westwood Christian High School, who said he's pondering some college offers. "It's his straightforwardness. He says things and he's going to get it done."

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