A Fox News analyst was kicked out of a cafe, online hate ensued. What it says about us.
On Saturday in Miami, Fox News analyst Gianno Caldwell went for breakfast at Paradis Books & Bread. The meal evolved into a national news story that resulted in the restaurant shuttering for a planned "winter break" a week early, citing a deluge of online hate and harassment.
"I can't believe what just happened. I met up with friends for breakfast at Paradis Books and Bread in North Miami & while we were having discussions about politics, we were told by the owner that we were not welcomed there because we aren't politically aligned. Outrageous," Caldwell tweeted on Saturday.
The tweet had more than 2 million views and sparked a conversation about the state of our political divide.
Fox News analyst Gianno Caldwell dines at Paradis Books & Bread. What happened?
Caldwell reiterated during a Fox News segment he was speaking about politics in the cafe and was asked to leave. He called the incident "troubling."
"There's a target on the backs of people who happen to be Black, who happen to be conservatives," Caldwell said.
For its part, the cafe said via its Instagram account, "a group of people came in, ordered their food, sat in the inside corner, and talked quite loudly for over an hour. A lot of what they were discussing was very troubling, specifically when talking about women in degrading ways, as well as using eugenic arguments around their thoughts on Roe v. Wade... Once it was clear that they were finished with their meal, we told them that our views don't align and that the language they were using was unwelcome in our space."
When the story began to go viral, the cafe said it received "a couple of genuinely alarming messages online and calls to our personal phones that have ultimately made us decide to take our winter break out of an abundance of caution for ourselves and our community."
No matter your politics you should not be discriminated against. I was discriminated against for being a conservative and told to leave a restaurant in North Miami because my politics didn’t “align” with the owner. This is NOT okay. Segment: https://t.co/eoFEKXlYlN pic.twitter.com/27Ij5BrEoI
— Gianno Caldwell (@GiannoCaldwell) January 22, 2023
Can a restaurant owner kick diners out?
Within the bounds of etiquette, a restaurant owner can ask a customer to leave if they are being disruptive.
However, etiquette is situational, says Jacqueline Whitmore, an etiquette expert and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach.
In Whitmore's opinion, the rule of etiquette is to make sure others around you feel comfortable. If you practice good etiquette, you are being mindful of how your behavior impacts others.
"Unfortunately, a lot of us walk around in a bubble and we don't we're not aware that our behavior is affecting other people in a negative way," Whitmore says.
If customers are being disruptive, then the restaurant owner "has every right to make the decision to ask this person to leave," she says.
Can Caldwell take legal action against the restaurant?
Whether Caldwell could seek legal action depends on a number of factors, according to Maria Fracassa Dwyer, a partner and co-chair of law firm Clark Hill’s food and beverage team. She pointed to where the incident occurred and whether the business's reasons for asking him to leave were truly based on politics or on another basis such as religion or race.
"Caldwell tweeted that he was discriminated against because he is a conservative," she tells USA TODAY via email. "The restaurant stated Caldwell and his group had finished eating and were asked to leave because they were loud."
If his claim was based on a "protected characteristic" such as religion or race, the restaurant's move could be classified as illegal.
"State and federal laws also vary to some degree as it relates to protected classifications. For example, if Caldwell had been asked to leave based on his political affiliation and he had been in our nation’s capital, it would have been illegal," she said. "Florida does not provide such protections for political affiliation."
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This isn't the first time politics have impacted dining
While Caldwell's experience is making headlines, this isn't the first time restaurant operators or owners have taken into account a diner's politics when choosing whether to serve them.
In 2018, Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of a small eatery called the Red Hen in Virginia, also made the news for kicking then-White House press secretary Sarah Sanders out of her restaurant.
"When I awoke the next morning, social media was on fire. The incident had gone from a Facebook post to a tagged tweet to nationally trending news with the whoosh of lighter fluid to a flame," she said.
The messages continued. But in 2019, she said in an editorial published in the Washington Post that "after nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually."
The state of the political divide in America
A 2019 Public Agenda/USA TODAY/Ipsos poll found more than nine of 10 people – about as close to unanimity as a national poll usually reaches – said it was important for the United States to try to reduce that divisiveness.
But as of December, a declining share of Americans said they believe it is “very important” to reduce divisiveness or to find better ways to understand people whose political affiliations are different from their own. It's a striking difference from previous research and a nod to the politically polarized country America has become.
Charles Campbell, a landscaper who lives in a New Orleans suburb and participated in the poll, said he doesn’t necessarily think America is more divided today compared to 10 or 20 years ago – Americans are just more aware of the divisions and differing opinions and beliefs because of social media.
Much of the reaction, debate and commentary on Caldwell's experience has taken place on Twitter.
“We’re more connected now as far as communication, but we are divided because we see more (of what people think),” Campbell, 42, said in December.
Another poll participant, Lynne Richardson from Oakland, New Jersey, said that media outlets have helped to foster the country’s deepening divides. But she sees an advantage in trying to understand Americans who have different beliefs and opinions from her own.
“I’m not going to give up a friendship with someone who’s generous and kind and loyal just because they have different political beliefs,” she said. “That’s really cutting off your nose to spite your face.”
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Contributing: Lindsay Schnell, William Cummings, USA TODAY
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fox News' Gianno Caldwell's Paradis Books & Bread meal sparks debate