The mystery of how a racist epithet came to be scrawled on a receipt handed to a Tennessee Red Lobster waitress has only become more muddled, as the man accused of writing the offensive word now says he plans to sue the waitress and the Red Lobster chain — and the waitress now says she believes that someone else wrote the racist word on the receipt.
The background is this: in September, Toni Christina Jenkins, a 19-year-old server at a Red Lobster franchise in Franklin, Tenn., served a $44.53 order to a 20-year-old customer named Devin Barnes and his wife. When she got the receipt back, she says, the word “none” was written on the “tip” line.
And underneath the word none, someone had scrawled the racial epithet, “N****r.”
Jenkins, who is African-American, then posted a photo of the offending receipt on her Facebook page, along with the caption, “This is what I got as a tip last night...so happy to live in the proud southern states. God Bless America, land of the free and home of the low class racists of Tennessee.”
Barnes signature was clearly visible on the the receipt posted on Facebook by Jenkins.
Then the photo, and story, went viral. Media outlets, including Opposing Views, ran with it. Jenkins received an outpouring of sympathy. In fact, that sympathy turned to hard cash. To make up for her getting stiffed on the tip by an apparent racist, people started sending her money.
In the end, her “tip” totaled $10,749. (Jenkins is pictured above with a check for that amount.)
And then the problems began.
Barnes flatly denies that he added the “N-word” to the receipt. And his attorney hired a handwriting expert to prove it.
“A lot of people on the Internet who I don't know are calling me a racist, and I'm thinking people have their own opinion, but I know I am not a racist,” Barnes said. “I don't see color. I have many mixed color friends."
In a note written after the story went national, Barnes said, “I do not approve of the use of that type of talk, not now or ever.”
He says that he and his wife have been subject to threats and harassment since his name went public in connection with the story.
"No one should go through this at all," Barnes said.
The handwriting expert found no match between Barnes’ handwriting, seen on a note written by him below, and the writing of whoever wrote the offending term on the receipt. Barnes acknowledges being a lousy tipper. He said he wrote “none” on the tip line when he and his wife had to leave in a hurry and switched their order to take-out.
The handwriting expert also ruled out Barnes’ wife as the writer of the word.
Then, a second handwriting analyst, hired by the conservative news web site The Daily Caller, examined the receipt and concluded that Jenkins herself was the perpetrator of a hoax.
“I believe within a reasonable degree of certainty that the waitress actually wrote the word,” forensic handwriting expert Bob Baier told the Daily Caller, citing similarities in Jenkins’ handwriting and the word on the receipt.
But Baier also said that his conclusion was not definitive and that more analysis was required.
Jenkins denies that she wrote the “N-word” on the receipt herself, but she now says she does not believe that Barnes wrote it either. She also says that she regrets not blacking out Barnes' name in the photo that she posted to Facebook.
While Barnes is threatening legal action, a spokesperson for Red Lobster says the chain has not been informed of any action taken so far.
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Below are the original receipt and a handwritten note from Barnes.
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