business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Advertising Age has a story about how a Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant in the Washington, DC, market took the unusual step of donating all of last Friday night's profits to the local office of the Anti-Defamation League - all because it got caught in the middle of a political firestorm.

What happened was this. A group called the National Policy Institute apparently made a late booking of a banquet space at the restaurant, which hardly is uncommon for such a facility. The problem was that the National Policy Institute actually is a white nationalist group that was holding a conference in DC over the weekend ... a conference that ended with people giving Nazi salutes and using a German term used by Nazis to describe media critics , “Lügenpresse,” to describe the US mainstream media.

(To be clear, "white nationalist" is just another way to say "white supremacist." Richard B. Spencer, who heads up the group, has called for recasting the US as "a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans,” and has called for “peaceful ethnic cleansing.”)

When it was discovered that the National Policy Institute was at the restaurant, protestors showed up ... and the result was that Maggiano's had to close the restaurant "to protect the safety of our Teammates and Guests," the company said.

Steve Provost, president of the restaurant chain, put out a statement in which he said that "after the event, a guest sent a tweet in which she made a 'Sieg Heil salute' in support of Hitler and white supremacy. This expression of support of Hitler is extremely offensive to us, as our restaurant is home to Teammates and Guests of every race, religion and cultural background ... We want to sincerely apologize to the community of Friendship Heights for inadvertently hosting this meeting, which resulted in hateful sentiment. We want you to know that at the suggestion of one of our guests, we are donating the profits from our restaurant sales on Friday, $10,000, to the DC office of the Anti-Defamation League, which for decades has been working to bring people together in peace and understanding."

Good for Maggiano's.

It is, I think, a cautionary tale to which every business need to pay attention, lest they get caught in similar firestorms in which the vast majority of their customers are offended by the abhorrent views of a small, repulsive but loud minority.

These people are disgusting. Their views are vile. Free speech means that every US citizen has a right to express himself or herself ... though the thought that these people actually are citizens is really scary. But hate speech is nothing more than hate speech, and ought to be decried by every person of ethical character. Not just ignored, but denounced.

These animals are out there. We all have to keep our Eyes Open.
KC's View: