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Fact Checking The Fact Checkers - Case 1, A Disturbance at Starbucks

by Chauncey Tinker – 16 Apr 2018

[Hat tip to Sam Hooper for the news story]

A news story was doing the rounds on social media. In the US, two black men were arrested by the police at a branch of Starbucks for – NOTHING, they were just waiting for someone!! Well, at least that was what quite a lot of people were saying, but was it true? Snopes did one of their “fact checks” on the story and they concluded that yes, it was true! The two black men were arrested for no reason at all, they were just waiting for someone. Screenshot of the Snopes page:

When you click on the READ MORE button underneath this section however, you find that even Snopes admit there is a little bit more to the story in fact. What the detailed section on the story reveals is that in fact there had been an incident when the two men had tried to use the rest-room and had been told it was only for paying customers. The Snopes article:

Were Two Black Real Estate Agents Arrested for Waiting at a Starbucks?

There is included a video where several police officers are talking to the two black men, who remain seated, for quite a few minutes before they arrest them. The article quotes the Police Commissioner who said that the officers asked the two men to leave 3 times before they made the arrests. As far as can be made out from the video, the officers were polite and did not utter any racist epithets that might have suggested a racist motivation for the arrests.

Looking elsewhere to a Sky News report we furthermore read there was a complaint about trespassing and a disturbance at the store. Sky News quote the Philadelphia Mayor who commented on the incident that it:

“appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018

This shows the insane degree of hand-wringing that has followed the incident. They also quote the (black) Police Commissioner who insisted that the police did nothing wrong. The Sky News article:

Starbucks apologises to two black men arrested as they waited in shop

Snopes marks the incident as “true” but only describes the “incident” as:

A video shows two black real estate agents being arrested while waiting for a friend at a Starbucks.

That was certainly true, but the title of the article suggested that they had been arrested only FOR WAITING, while even by the Snopes article’s own admission in the detail there was rather more to it than that.


Snopes have only added to racial division in society by appearing to confirm that racial discrimination took place when there is no available evidence to suggest that. The two men were given plenty of opportunity to just leave, both by the Starbucks staff and the police officers, but they refused. The fact that they were black may also have been completely irrelevant to the whole incident, and not even worth mentioning.


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