Ongoing Duquesne Chick-fil-A debate gets national attention

“Fox & Friends” report appears to plagiarize March 30 Duke story

Courtesy of Mike Mozart/Flickr

A story in The Duke’s March 30 issue on some students’ opposition to Chick-fil-A on campus has been covered by national media such as Fox News and The Blaze.

Brandon Addeo | News Editor

Duquesne students’ concerns about a new Chick-fil-A Express on campus have garnered national attention, including coverage by Fox News and The Washington Times, and were also referenced by President Donald Trump’s oldest son on social media.

Duquesne University responded to the news coverage in an April 13 Facebook post, saying the university will be “moving forward” with construction of the restaurant in the Options Food Court, set to begin this spring for its opening in the fall semester.

The story, originally reported by The Duke on March 30, gained attention from right-leaning news organizations the week of April 9. President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., referenced the concerns of members of Duquesne’s Lambda Gay-Straight Alliance in an April 13 tweet that included a link to an article in The Daily Caller, a conservative news site.

“Luckily these students wont [sic] likely have to tackle issues more stressful than a yummy chicken sandwich in their lives … Oh Wait #triggered,” the tweet read.

Many took to social media to debate the issue — Duquesne’s April 13 post has been commented on over 500 times. Some commenters spoke out in support of Lambda.

“[Students] were justly alarmed that Duquesne willfully shook hands with a company that is not merely famous but infamous for their contributions towards fostering an environment of division and intolerance,” commented David M. Katzin of Pittsburgh. “I shall be discouraging anyone I know … from making any charitable donations to [Duquesne] in the future.”

“For those of you who think this is about entitled students needing safe spaces or about the restaurant’s politics, you’re wrong,” commented Duquesne alum Brenden O’Donnell of Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It’s about the way that Duquesne has consistently turned a blind eye to the needs of its LGBT students, and how this decision shows that the administration is getting no better. I’m ashamed of my alma mater.”

Other commenters mocked the Duquesne students.

“Having a Chick-fil-A [at Duquesne] might upset the students and disrupt their safe place? Give me a break,” commented Amy Louise of Triple Lakes, Maryland, on Duquesne’s post. “What are these students going to do when they get out in the real world?”

“DU and Chick Filet [sic] share some similar basic core beliefs such as traditional marriage and sanctity of life,” commented Brian Dunn of Barto, Pennsylvania. “Students who don’t share those same core beliefs are free to attend school at DU but need not shove their lifestyle down the throats of the 99 percent of those students who have differing values … typical intolerance from those who demand tolerance.”

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy has publicly alluded to anti-gay marriage comments. In 2012, when asked if he supported the “traditional family,” he responded that he was “guilty as charged,” according to the Huffington Post. The company said in an April 13 statement to the Associated Press that “everyone is welcome in [their] restaurants.”

Regardless, many people still support the restaurant chain.

In an interview on Fox’s weekday morning show “Fox & Friends,” Duquesne alumnus and retired U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell said the students opposed to the Chick-fil-A are “a bunch of babies.”

“Safe spaces don’t prepare kids for the real world,” Parnell said.

“Fox & Friends” anchor Ainsley Earhardt said Fox had “reached out to” Lambda President Rachel Coury about the issue, and claimed that Coury responded with the following message: “I fear that with the Chick-fil-A … maybe people will feel that safe place is at risk. It would be a really big deal for Lambda and the whole LGBTQ community on campus if someone could make a statement to eliminate the fear of being marginalized by having this business on campus.”

Parnell criticized the statement.

“That is fascism cloaked in free speech,” he said.

However, according to Coury, she was never contacted by “Fox & Friends.”

“Fox News stated that they reached out to me for comment, and that I gave them the statement they read on-air, but this is false,” she said April 19 in a written statement to The Duke. “I never communicated with Fox News. I never gave them the statement they read on-air.”

The statement read on “Fox & Friends” appears to have been plagiarized from two separate quotes by Coury given in an interview to a Duke reporter in an article published March 30.

The Duke reached out to Fox News Wednesday night, and did not receive a response by press time.

Student Government Association President Olivia Erickson addressed the media coverage in a campus-wide email sent April 18 addressing some misinformation in media reports, including the incorrect statement that SGA was involved in protests against the Chick-fil-A, and affirmed that the SGA has not taken a stance on the matter.

Erickson also asked students to be “mindful in their spoken words and actions” in future debates.

“Moving forward, I implore students to be respectful and conscientious as we confront issues where we may not all agree,” Erickson wrote. “I have full faith that Duquesne students can rise above the divisive rhetoric of our current political environment to set a strong example of civil discourse.”

Erickson said in the email the SGA is engaged in an “open conversation” with the Duquesne administration over the Chick-fil-A, but declined to comment on the nature of the discussions.

Duquesne President Ken Gormley has not yet issued a statement to date on the Chick-fil-A controversy.

Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare said Parkhurst and the university’s Auxiliary Services department “routinely” addresses campus concerns regarding dining options.

Fare noted, though, that the “majority of the feedback on Chick-Fil-A Express has been and continues to be positive.”

She pointed out many of the “inflammatory” comments made regarding the Chick-fil-A came from outside Duquesne, though she asked the campus to community to exercise restraint in disagreements.

“[Duquesne respects] the rights of individuals to voice their opinions, however we ask that they do so in a respectful manner regardless of the issue,” Fare said. “We also respect the rights of individuals to make personal choices about where they choose to dine.”

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