Fox News host Laura Ingraham furthered a 4chan hoax on her show this week when she played a video of a black man demanding free coffee at Starbucks, after the chain said it was closing some branches next month for racial-sensitivity training.
Starbucks has been under fire since last week, when an employee called police on two black men who were waiting for a friend in a Philadelphia store. Video of the men being handcuffed and arrested went viral, prompting Starbucks to announce it was implementing anti-bias training for 175,000 employees nationwide.
Trolls on the message board 4chan attempted to enter the controversy earlier this week, forging vouchers pretending to offer free coffee for people of color. The hoax made it onto Ingraham’s television show “The Ingraham Angle” within day of taking off on 4chan.
The only person who appears to have got a free coffee from the hoax was Bryan “Hotep Jesus” Sharpe, a black comedian and conspiracy theorist who has appeared on a white nationalist-affiliated internet program.
On Wednesday, Sharpe uploaded a YouTube video of himself demanding a free coffee in Starbucks.
“I heard you guys don’t like black people, so I wanted to get my Starbucks reparations voucher,” Sharpe told the barista. The young woman responded that she’d seen the voucher on Twitter, and gave Sharpe a free coffee. She told him she was a student, and that it was her last day at the store until fall.
Hours after uploading a video to YouTube, Sharpe appeared on Ingraham’s show to discuss the prank. “I told you about someone who wanted to see just how far Starbucks' liberal guilt would go,” Ingraham introduced Sharpe to viewers.
“I am sick and tired of liberals using black people, and making us look like victims, making us look soft with their liberal dogma,” Sharpe told Ingraham. “I said ‘I bet if I go into Starbucks and I follow a liberal narrative, I’ll make the news.’ And voila, here I am.”
But the free coffee stunt did not originate with liberals. It first appeared earlier this week on 4chan’s notoriously racist /pol/ message board, where users collaborated on a fake Starbucks flyer advertising free coffee for people of color.
“We’re sorry,” a version of the flyer read. “We know we can do better. Starbucks values all people of color, and we are working on employee sensitivity training. The best dialogue starts over a cup of coffee, and we’d like to buy you one.”
The bottom of the flyer included a clip-out coupon for “1 free beverage” for “People of Color only.” Versions of the flyer spread on social media, pushed by 4channers who were in on the joke, and some Twitter users who fell for it — including, apparently, the barista in Sharpe’s video.
“That young woman says ‘I think I saw something on Twitter,’” Ingraham said. “Like, she actually thought she saw something on Twitter that, any time a black person came into Starbucks, you just had to hand them a coffee.”
Neither she nor Sharpe acknowledged the by-then-viral 4chan hoax that Sharpe and the barista appeared to reference in the video.
“It’s kind of obvious that she didn’t cover the hoax itself, that she was covering the video he created,” a Fox News spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Another Fox News spokesperson added that “the show had no idea of the hoax’s origin and decided to do the segment given the video went viral.”
Ingraham told Sharpe he should have pushed the barista for a more expensive coffee.
“You sound like Chris Rock,” Ingraham told him. “It’s so funny, and that poor girl in Starbucks is ready to turn over the keys to the shop to you, she was so worried.”