After all the ink that was spilled on the Memories Pizza story -- including when the famous and/or infamous GoFundMe campaign hit pay dirt -- I was curious to know how much attention the mainstream press would continue to pay to this angle in the Indiana culture wars. How about you?
Surf around in this Google News search and you discover that, after the death threats died down, the press lost interest. But I was still curious and, in this social media age, I kept following the rumors. Did you know that some on the cultural left actually argued that the entire media firestorm was intentional and part of a clever plot by the Memories Pizza family to become martyrs and, thus, cash in?
Anyway, I was happy when a few friends on social media -- think Rod "friend of this blog" Dreher, and others -- pointed me toward an actual news report on this "What happened next?" topic. Believe it or not, it was The Daily Mail in England that convinced owner owner Kevin O’Connor and his media-battered daughter Crystal to come out of hiding and talk. This on-the scene report ran back on April 7, so I'm rather surprised more people haven't chased the story -- especially the angle of what these small-town folks plan to do with the money. Here's the top:
The pizza parlor owners who received death threats and were subjected to an online hate campaign will reopen for business tomorrow with the backing of $842,000 from well wishers and a defiant message that they stand by their opposition to gay weddings. They were going to open today but were advised to hold off for security reasons.
In an exclusive first interview inside Memories Pizza restaurant since it closed down last week, owner Kevin O’Connor and daughter Crystal emerged from hiding and told Daily Mail Online they had been heartened by the support of 29,000 people who donated and many more who wrote to them.
They revealed they are set to share their new fortune with disabled children, a women’s help group, fire fighters, police trusts, Christian churches and Washington florist Barronelle Stutzman, 70, who was fined after declaring she would not serve a gay wedding.
So much for cashing in. Of course, it is interesting that some of the cash is going back into the business, while they will also be making donations to ministries and nonprofit groups. Reporters might want to follow up on this. At the very least, it's clear that O'Connor and crew didn't take the money and run.
The Daily Mail team did ask another obvious question:
Mr. O’Connor and his daughter were still adamant today, despite the furor that has engulfed them, that they would refuse to serve gay marriages with their pizzas. He added: ‘ If any child of mine came out as gay and entered into a gay marriage, I would still love them, but Daddy wouldn’t be going to the wedding.’
The O’Connors, who serve around 100 pizzas a week to locals, admitted they had never actually been commissioned to provide their 16 inch $12.99 cheese pizzas or pulled pork $5.75 sandwiches to a same sex wedding.
Crystal said: ’I was asked a hypothetical question and that was the answer I gave. But I didn’t hope to gain anything by saying what I said. I wasn’t trying to score points. It is something I believe in from my heart and my faith about gay weddings. But I don’t regret what I said.
‘I have been scared, but God is giving me strength. I think it is nothing compared to what Christ had to suffer.’
So what's the journalism issue here, in terms of what's missing from this long, long talk with the family members? To be blunt about it, this story really needs more content from the other side of this debate, from (a) the true Memories enemies on social-media and (b) from serious gay rights activists who were appalled by the threats against the family-owned pizza parlor and are thinking about future efforts to disagree, but get along.
In other words: Where is the cultural left in this report? Where are the voices on the other side? Basically, all readers get are two snippets:
The remark was quickly picked up by opponents of the new law and sparked an intense and angry debate, with threats being made against the O’Conners, forcing them to close down and go into hiding. ...
A local teacher sent a message out on Twitter, which was quickly deleted, calling for Memories Pizza to be firebombed. The message is now the subject of a police investigation and charges are being considered against her. The sports school coach has been suspended.
Mr O’Connor said he had read some of the remarks against him and his daughter and he found them ‘vile and disgraceful’.
An "intense and angry debate"? Death threats and arson talk? That sounds like content that needs some attention and even documentation.
Later on, there was this rather flippant attempt at commentary from the left.
Whitney Doody, 26, a lesbian who lives in Walkerton, said she had no ill feelings against the owners of Memories Pizza.
“They are entitled to feel how they feel. They have their religious rights just the same as I have my gay rights. They shouldn’t suffer in the way they have and my only problem with them is that I don’t like their pizzas very much. A friend ordered one once and I didn’t really care for it.’
Really? When you read that, don't you have an image in your mind of a journalist walking around in this small town handing out cards that say, "Local gay or lesbian person wanted for interview. Contact ..."
Like I said, the essential "liberal" (?!?) voices on the other side were out there in the social-media world (see YouTube at the top of this post), where the real action was on this story. This story had some good information on the Memories Pizza family, but lacked any attempts to take their critics seriously, both the serious critics and the semi-crazy conspiracy theorists.