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Duluth restaurants face backlash for hosting Fox News

Uncle Loui's Cafe owner Debra Strop and her son Matt Berthiaume, general manager will host "Fox & Friends" on Thursday after Trump's visit. "We just want to feed people; we don't care who you voted for," Berthiaume said. Tyler Schank / tschank@duluthnews.com

It only took 10 minutes before the Uncle Loui's Cafe Facebook page was bombarded with comments.

The owners had just announced they would be hosting Fox & Friends on Thursday for their morning news segment.

"There were people that were congratulating us and then there were some people that were very angry," said Matt Berthiaume, the general manager of the cafe. "There were some regulars that come in and now don't want to eat here anymore, which is unfortunate."

Berthiaume said hosting the morning news segment is an attempt to increase exposure for the restaurant. Instead, the simple business decision turned their Facebook page into a brouhaha of invective being hurled back and forth.

"We'll see what happens. There were negative comments and people who had never been in here before were slandering the cleanliness of this restaurant," Berthiaume said.

Coinciding with President Donald Trump's visit to Duluth on Wednesday, the network called the local eatery last week hoping to broadcast from the restaurant the day after the rally. Berthiaume said he thinks his mother and Uncle Loui's owner, Debra Strop, didn't fully realize how some people would perceive the decision.

"My mom's so apolitical — she just wants to feed people," Berthiaume said. "She just wants people to come in. It's great exposure for our restaurant, which I can't blame her for. If it wasn't us, it'd be somebody else."

Berthiaume and Strop wanted to grow their restaurant's brand, but instead have spent much of the past few days in damage control mode.

In one instance, Berthiaume said he messaged a man who was saying rude things to people, including his step-grandmother who was supporting the restaurant online.

"That's the worst part. People just assume," he said. "No one asks questions like 'Hey, what's up?' or 'Are you supporting this?'"

New London Cafe is also hosting a program from Fox News on Wednesday and experienced some backlash on social media as well. They could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I personally might show up at one of those events just to see what it's like," said Mike Mayou. "I've been to Uncle Loui's before and I enjoyed my breakfast there, but it's really interesting when an organization shows who they choose to partner with."

Mayou is a member of Forward Coalition, which represents groups opposing Trump's policies. While he said the coalition doesn't have an official stance on the controversy, they had discussed it at meetings but decided to focus on the president's visit to Duluth.

"I think some people might not patronize it while some people will want to go to it more," he said.

Fox & Friends will broadcast from Uncle Loui's from 5-8 a.m. Thursday. Berthiaume doesn't know how the logistics of the broadcast from the location, only that crews will start setting up early in the morning.

While he expects some protests, Berthiaume said he doesn't anticipate anything worse like damage to the restaurant.

"The people in Duluth are great. Even if they don't like it, they won't turn to that. I hope it doesn't get to that point," he said. "We're just hoping people understand we're doing this for the business. We're not supporting anyone or anything in any way."

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