MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The man at the center of a South Florida restaurant controversy is speaking about his ordeal concerning his ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.
Eugene Joseph, 22, says employees at the Cheesecake Factory in Dadeland Mall bullied him and threatened him for wearing his MAGA hat.
Joseph, who is a huge fan of President Donald Trump, says the harassment began shortly after he sat down to eat with his girlfriend’s family on Mother’s Day.
“They were just saying so much things to us, all these rude things. Employees were just walking by us saying, ‘I want to slap that hat off his head.’ They were making slick comments, ‘Nice hat, nice hat.’ They were saying rude things to all of us,” said Joseph.
“They were talking about my hat and they started saying, ‘Oh I want to knock this guy’s hat off his head so bad.’ ‘I want to punch his hat.’ I started looking back at the guys and I seen them staring at me and they were like clenching their fists and saying all these things to us,” said Joseph.
Joseph says he ignored the employees. But when he and his girlfriend got up to use the restroom, he says more employees joined in on the harassment.
“The employees were just walking past us, disrespecting us. Even waiters that weren’t serving at our table were just passing by saying the most rudest things to us,” said Joseph. “A group of employees came from the back and they started shouting at me and screaming things at me as I was walking back to my seat.”
He says he was embarrassed and sad that he and his girlfriend’s family had to go through that and they ended up leaving.
“It just got so crazy. We didn’t even eat. We didn’t touch our food. We just got up and left. It was really sad and disappointing,” said Joseph.
They called police, who wrote up an incident report, but officers concluded, “No threats were made and no physical altercation occurred.”
The Cheesecake Factory issued a statement that read in part, “We were very disappointed to learn that two staff members made disparaging remarks about Mr. Joseph’s hat that made him and his family feel unwelcome. As a result, as of Tuesday those two individuals are no longer employed with the company. No guest should ever feel unwelcome in one of our restaurants and we are very sorry.”
Joseph did not want to comment on the firings but he did say he wants to make sure no one else goes through something like this.
“We’re talking to somebody and we’re trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else ever again. Everyone should have the right to freedom of speech,” said Joseph.
Joseph says he wears his Make America Great Again hat to a lot of places but this was his first time wearing it to a restaurant. He says he plans to continue wearing his hat.