Eugenior Joseph, the man at the center of a Cheesecake Factory scandal involving harassment over his Trump-supporting MAGA hat, has spoken out about his experience and doubled down on his support for the president.
What's the background?
Joseph, 22, visited a Miami Cheesecake Factory location Sunday for a Mother's Day celebration with his girlfriend's family.
Joseph, who is black, wore his red MAGA hat to the restaurant and reportedly took a lot of verbal abuse for doing so.
He spoke to The Daily Wire, where he detailed his experience at the restaurant, with allegations ranging from dirty looks to open, verbal hostility and an apparent attempt to physically intimidate Joseph because of the hat.
Joseph alleged that at least a dozen Cheesecake Factory workers gathered near his table and "verbally attacked and made threatening gestures" at him.
Several witnesses corroborated Joseph's account of the incident Sunday at the restaurant.
Joseph and his party left the restaurant, but not before a manager apologized for the employees' behaviors.
Police interviewed Joseph, but he declined to press charges.
What did the restaurant say?
The Cheesecake Factory offered an initial statement decrying such behaviors.
A statement from the restaurant stated: "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 individuals involved have been suspended pending the results of our investigation."
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 individuals involved have been suspended pending the results of our investigation.
— Cheesecake Factory (@Cheesecake) May 15, 2018
What's Joseph saying now?
In a Wednesday interview with Fox News, Joseph recounted his experience and doubled down on his support for President Donald Trump, unashamedly proclaiming that the president is just what America needs right now.
"I wasn't really intimidated by anything," Joseph told Fox, "it was just sad. Everyone was disappointed. Mother's Day was completely ruined."
Later in the interview, Joseph discussed his pride in the president, thus the reason for wearing the hat.
"I love Donald Trump," he explained. "He's just what the country needs. He's a true American. He really cares for the well being of America."
"People will say what they want about him — everybody's entitled to their opinion, it's a free country — and I think Donald Trump is everything we've all needed in this country," Joseph added.
Joseph had a few words for those who can't even respect him for simply wearing a hat supporting the president.
"At the end of the day, this isn't about being black, white," he explained. "Anybody could have worn the hat. White man, Latino man. It's just about freedom of speech. This is America. Everyone should be entitled to their own opinions and their own beliefs."
"Nobody should be disrespected or treated the way I was treated on Sunday," Joseph concluded.
The Cheesecake Factory shared a follow-up statement on Twitter on Wednesday and revealed that two of its employees had been fired in connection with the Sunday incident.
A portion of the statement read, "All guests should always feel welcome in our restaurants. The recent incident in one of our Miami restaurants fell short of our standards, and we apologize to the guest and his family. Two individuals are no longer employed by the company, and we are continuing to investigate."
You can read the rest of the statement in its entirety below.
All guests should always feel welcome in our restaurants. The recent incident in one of our Miami restaurants fell short of our standards, and we apologize to the guest and his family. Two individuals are no longer employed by the company, and we are continuing to investigate. pic.twitter.com/gbrh1Ok8iC
— Cheesecake Factory (@Cheesecake) May 16, 2018
The restaurant also told CBS MoneyWatch that the incident may have been overblown.
"Not all of the information reported by the media accurately portrays what occurred," a spokesperson told the outlet in a statement. "The situation may have been exacerbated by an all-staff meeting that took place during our shift change between our staff members working the lunch and dinner shifts — which may have been perceived as a crowd gathering near the guests' tables."