The knives are coming out for popular California burger joint In-N-Out after the company announced it opposes vaccine passports and media outlets reported that In-N-Out donates to Republican political candidates, the two worst things an American company can do in 2021. The controversy over the famous regional fast-food joint began earlier this week when news broke that its only San Francisco location was temporarily shuttered for refusing to check customers' vaccine status as required by local health authorities.
The restaurant has since been allowed to partially reopen, but its indoor dining room remains closed. This minor kerfuffle might have escaped notice but for the company's strident statement about why it was not checking customers' papers when they try to order a burger.
"We refuse to become the vaccination police for any government. It is unreasonable, invasive, and unsafe to force our restaurant Associates to segregate Customers into those who may be served and those who may not, whether based on the documentation they carry, or any other reason," said the company. "We fiercely disagree with any government dictate that forces a private company to discriminate against customers who choose to patronize their business. This is clear governmental overreach and is intrusive, improper, and offensive."
California's lockdowns last year sparked episodes of organized non-compliance from small businesses that had been ordered to close. Mandated vaccine passports have thus far proven less controversial. Certainly, no other corporate chain has openly sparred with health officials over the policy.
In-N-Out's refusal to enforce the Bay Area's vaccine mandates has drawn fire from some Bay Area liberals who say the company's stance on vaccines is only its latest expression of political wrongthink.
On Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle's online home page prominently featured not one, not two, but five stories about In-N-Out.
Landing page of the San Francisco Chronicle right now is really something. Not only is In-and-Out not totally onboard with the vaccine passports, they're also Republicans! pic.twitter.com/MD7s4UmrJY
— Christian Britschgi (@christianbrits) October 21, 2021
That included a lead story about the company's donation of $40,000 earlier this year to the California Republican Party during the recall campaign against Gov. Gavin Newsom.
There's nothing objectionable about reporting on publicly available campaign finance data, but that donation's sudden newsworthiness is more puzzling considering the recall campaign against Newsom failed and In-N-Out's donations to California Republicans have circulated in the media for years. It's seemingly part of a trend whereby business owners that do object to pandemic mandates are then subject to obsessive reporting on their politics.
Certainly, the Chronicle's campaign finance story is providing fodder for the newspaper's columnists, who see the donation to the state GOP as a reason to boycott the restaurant entirely.
Tony Bravo, the writer of the Chronicle's Datebook column, suggests In-N-Out's donations over the years to the Republican party, taken together with the Bible verses it prints on its burger wrappers, signals the company's opposition to not only vaccine passports but basic human rights as well.
"There are Bible verses on its packaging, something that has felt like a conservative dog whistle to many LGBTQ people," writes Bravo, adding that "In-N-Out may not be guilty of supporting anti-LGBTQ causes in the same overt way as Chick-Fil-A, but there is certainly guilt by association."
Deeming someone guilty by association is usually considered a bad thing, yet the Chronicle's restaurant critic Soleil Ho goes further, arguing in a separate column that In-N-Out's cult following should have ended long before its stance on vaccine mandates became known. "I can empathize with people wanting to ignore all of the abstract, even unethical stuff about a company when the product they create is really great," writes Ho, but neither In-N-Out's burgers or fries are really worth the moral stain that comes on the side. "It's time to deprogram yourself," Ho writes. "In-N-Out sucks. Get over it."
On the other side of the country, New York magazine has breathed a sigh of relief that the city doesn't have any In-N-Outs of its own to resist New York City's first-in-the-nation vaccine passport system.
In-N-Out's refusal to play vaccine cop might cause the company even more problems than bad press. By not complying with public health orders, it runs the risk of the government shuttering more of its dining rooms. An In-N-Out in Contra Costa county has already been fined for refusing to check customers' vaccine status. The hypercharged, hyperpolarized politics around vaccine mandates could also end up alienating more customers.
In-N-Out's critics, including the Chronicle's columnists, say that they don't want to eat in an environment where they feel unsafe. That's obviously their right. In a more perfect world, customers who aren't as concerned about the risks of eating in a restaurant without a vaccine requirement could continue to patronize In-N-Out (provided they like the food).
But the Bay Area's binding public health order precludes that live-and-let-live option. Luckily for In-N-Out and its many employees, past efforts to boycott the chain over its donations to the California Republican Party have flopped. Heck, Vice President Kamala Harris patronized the restaurant on a trip back to California to oppose the recall that In-N-Out supported.
Republican and Democratic administrations taking a hard line on China isn't doing much good for oppressed peoples trying to flee that country. In fiscal year 2021, which runs from October 2020 to September 2021, the U.S. accepted zero Uyghur refugees. The Dispatch has the news:
A recent State Department report on admissions details countries of origin for refugees who were resettled from the beginning of October 2020 through the end of September 2021. According to that document, not a single refugee of Chinese nationality—including Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities from Xinjiang—was resettled in America through the program in that time.
Asked why no Uyghur refugees were resettled, a White House spokesman referred The Dispatch to the State Department and said it is "something we take very seriously and something the president is committed to."
Refugees from China have consistently represented a slim portion of total admissions in recent years, but a downward trend has been especially noticeable since 2016. There were none admitted through the program in fiscal year 2020, one in 2019, six in 2018, 24 in 2017, and 57 in 2016.
Speaking of vaccines, federal public health authorities are approving more rounds of them. On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially endorsed people's ability to get booster shots of the Johnson & Johnson and Moderna vaccine. It also endorsed people who'd gotten one of three approved vaccines to choose a different brand for their booster shot, reports the Washington Post.
"The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe—as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given," said CDC director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Thursday night.
- One person was killed and another injured on the set of a movie being directed by Alec Baldwin after the actor accidentally discharged a prop gun.
- President Joe Biden says that first responders should be fired if they refuse the vaccine.
Biden just said first responders should be FIRED for refusing the vaccine. Wow.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) October 22, 2021
- The Associated Press claims a counter-protester screamed profanities at peaceful demonstrators who were protesting Dave Chappelle's latest comedy special at a Netflix employee walkout. It turns out that the counter-protester did not scream profanities and the peaceful demonstrators weren't entirely peaceful.
1/ This AP photo caption reads "Comedian and videographer Vito Gesualdi screams profanities as he engages with peaceful protesters begging him to leave." A damaging claim about @VitoGesualdi, circulated globally.
It never happened. Join me on some basic photo-trutherism. pic.twitter.com/olZDOtuZTw
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal) October 21, 2021
- Russia is establishing a digital iron curtain, reports The New York Times.
- The U.S. House of Representatives holds former White House advisor Steve Bannon in contempt for refusing to comply with subpoenas from a committee set up to investigate the events of January 6.
- The Los Angeles Times has a fun story on the city's weirdest vanity license plates. We should be seeing even weirder ones after motorists' won a free speech lawsuit against the state, which had been rejecting vanity plate applications it considered profane.