Guilty until proven innocent: Whole Foods denies selling anti-gay cake, makes headlines anyway

This is national news?

Yes, apparently it is.

Whole Foods denies that its flagship Austin, Texas, store sold a cake with an anti-gay slur on it. Nonetheless, "America's Healthiest Grocery Store" chain finds itself the focus of a slew of negative headlines.

Fifty-plus stories show up on Google News related to this, including links to BuzzFeed News, the New York Daily News, CBS News, Fox News and the Daily Mail (guess that would make this international news).

GetReligionista emeritus Mollie Hemingway rightly asks:

This is the lede from the Austin American-Statesman:

Whole Foods is being sued by an Austin pastor who claims the grocery store gave him a cake with a slur against gays.
In a video posted on YouTube, pastor Jordan Brown says he ordered a cake from the Whole Foods flagship store on Lamar Boulevard with the personalized message, “Love Wins.” When he picked up the cake on April 14, he said the cake he picked up had the message “Love Wins Fag.”
Brown, who is openly gay, said he reported the incident to a Whole Foods employee but was told the store did nothing wrong and no action would be taken.

In the fourth paragraph, the American-Statesman gets around to Whole Foods' denial of the allegation:

Whole Foods issued a statement on Monday saying: “The team member wrote ‘Love Wins’ at the top of the cake as requested by the guest and that’s exactly how the cake was packaged and sold at the store. Our team members do not accept or design bakery orders that include language or images that are offensive. Whole Foods Market has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination. We stand behind our bakery team member, who is part of the LGBTQ community, and the additional team members from the store, who confirmed the cake was decorated with only the message ‘Love Wins.’ ”

Like the Austin paper, most news organizations open with the pastor's claim and bury Whole Foods' rejection of it later in the story. The grocer is, it seems, guilty until proven innocent. 

How low is the threshold for making news in these clickbait-happy days? I mean, if someone claimed to find a cockroach in their hash browns at McDonald's, would that make headlines? Wait, don't answer that.

Note to the news media: Roughly 15 million civil lawsuits are filed in the U.S. each year. You don't — repeat, don't — have to write about every one of them. And in this case, I'd argue that you shouldn't.

Why not? Because anybody can file a lawsuit. Anybody can claim anything. 

If this case goes anywhere — which seems highly doubtful — write about it then. But not now. Not when there's absolutely no evidence except for one person's YouTube video making an allegation wholly denied by Whole Foods.

This is national news?

On second thought, no.

No, it's not.

Update: Read Terry Mattingly's Wednesday post for the latest:

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