We previously discussed the suspicious claims made by a gay Texas pastor, Jordan Brown, who accused a Whole Foods store of changing his order for a cake reading “Love Wins” to “Love Wins Fag.” Various people seeing the cake immediately began raising questions over Brown’s claims and a videotape seemed to contradict his account. Whole Foods countersued Brown. Brown has now fessed up that he did alter the cake and made the whole thing up. After he dropped his lawsuit, Whole Foods has decided to drop the countersuit though a strong case could be made for seeking damages in such a hoax.
Whole Foods was sued by Pastor Jordan Brown of Austin’s Church of Open Doors. It seemed odd that anyone would write such an offensive statement on a cake and not expect to be immediately confronted and fired at Whole Foods. Indeed, many asked how anyone picking up a cake would not see the slur before he left the store. Additionally, any employee would have to know that such a slur would result in the cake being immediately returned with a likely loss of employment.
Brown stood his ground and insisted in a poster video that the box has not been opened and he noticed the slur when he got to the car. He specifically notes that the content and pricing UPC label is unbroken — showing that the box had not been opened.
He stated: “My question is: Who could have done this? . . . It’s still inside of a sealed box . . . This is discrimination.”
However, the store stated that Brown “intentionally, knowingly and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homophobic slur … on a custom made cake that he ordered from WFM’s Lamar Store in Austin.” The store noted that Brown insists that he was in the sole possession and control of the cake until his posting of the video but that “after reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box.”
The evidence appears to have become insurmountable for Brown and his attorney, Austin Kaplan. Kaplan is described as a “rising star” in the local bar who has found himself at the center of a storm of controversy over the filing of this hoax. There is no evidence suggesting that Kaplan was aware of the hoax and Brown apologized to him. Some have suggested that, given the immediate questions raised about the allegations, that Brown should have known or made greater efforts to learn that this was a hoax. In his defense, he could note that he had a pastor who swore that the box was unopened and that he did not have immediate access to the security footage.
Brown issued a statement that “The company did nothing wrong. I was wrong to pursue this matter and use the media to perpetuate this story.”
Brown’s actions are clearly reprehensible. He was accusing the person who made the cake of discrimination and could have resulted in termination for the baker and any supervisor. He also labeled these people as bigots, a charge that would mark them in later efforts to get jobs. The hoax also gave credence to those who dismiss claims of discrimination and bigotry faced by the LGBT community. For that reason, a strong argument could be made for sanctions for a meritless lawsuit and the pursuit of tort damages.