SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - The Cheesecake Factory has apologized to a diner days after, he said, he was harassed by several employees at one of their restaurants in Southwest Miami-Dade for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.
According to the Daily Wire, 22-year-old Eugene Joseph was eating at the Cheesecake Factory in Dadeland Mall with his girlfriend and her mother on Sunday when he was reportedly confronted by a group of employees.
Joseph claims the employees surrounded him and commented on his hat, which carries the phrase used by President Donald Trump during his presidential campaign. The customer said their remarks were nasty and threatening.
Joseph took out his cellphone and recorded police officers that were called to the scene, saying, “Yeah, I wear a Trump hat and look at this. Just because I wore a Trump hat.”
7News spoke with Joseph to get his take on the incident. “The reason they said this was because of my hat,” he said. “We overheard everything they were saying at our table.”
Joseph reportedly told the Daily Wire that some of the employees even tried to intimidate him. His girlfriend added that the employees looked like they were cracking their knuckles and making fists at them.
“We were walking back to the table, and a group of them just came up from the back, and they just started chanting and screaming things,” said Joseph. “No one should feel harassed while they’re trying to eat in a public restaurant.”
The alleged incident has garnered national attention. Joseph told his story on Fox News, Wednesday morning.
“[The employees] all started getting behind us, and one of the co-workers was saying, ‘Oh, I’ll knock that hat off his head. I’ll hit him so hard,'” Joseph told Fox News.
No one got hit, but Joseph said the environment was so hostile that he and the rest of his party eventually decided to leave the restaurant. The couple also called police because they were scared somebody was going to do something.
In the days that followed, the restaurant chain issued a statement saying that, upon learning of the incident, they immediately apologized to Joseph and that the individuals involved were suspended, pending the results of an internal investigation.
Despite the statement saying Joseph was immediately apologized to after the event took place, Joseph said that is something that has yet to happen.
The Cheesecake Factory announced on Wednesday they let two employees go.
7News cameras captured fellow Trump supporters outside the Dadeland Mall restaurant holding a U.S. flag and a sign that reads, “Hey liberals, Black Lives MAGA.”
“I wanted to just come down here and support him,” said Rogan O’Handley, one of the demonstrators.
O’Handley, who drove in from Tampa, runs a pro-Trump Instagram account with a quarter of a million followers.
He had a message for the public. “People should be free to speak their mind,” he said. “They should be free to think how they want to think and to support the candidates they want to support.”
And that’s what Joseph said he was doing on Sunday. “Everyone has a right to freedom of speech. It shouldn’t be taken away from anyone just because they’re wearing a hat or something,” he said. “This is crazy. No one should feel harassed when they’re trying to eat at a public restaurant.”
In the statement from the Cheesecake Factory, chain representatives claimed that in multiple reports, what happened at the restaurant has been exaggerated. They said they have reached out to Joseph and would like to invite him back.
Since the story broke, a Facebook page has been created in support of Joseph. Fellow Trump supporters are planning a protest at Dadeland Mall scheduled for Saturday at 2 p.m.
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