comScore Sean Hannity Is Still Allowed at Olive Garden | The Mary Sue

Because of a Viral Tweet, Sean Hannity Had To Explain He’s Still Allowed at Olive Garden

This news was fake but it was also funny

Donald Trump and Sean Hannity celebrate the propaganda machine that is Fox news.

Last week was, to paraphrase what historians will one day write, cuckoo-bananas. We’re still parsing what was a rumor (no, a man didn’t die tasing himself in the balls, sorry), and what was a fact as more information about the insurrection and attack on the Capitol comes out and more people begin to face consequences. One such rumor, which exploded last Thursday, was that Olive Garden had taken the radical step of canceling the Never-ending Pasta Passes for customers that participated in Trump’s coup attempt and revoking Sean Hannity’s Lifetime Pasta Pass.

Now, perhaps it’s wrong to call this a rumor. Because Twitter began circulating what looked like a release from Olive Garden saying as much … even though it was pretty clearly parody.

This … is funny. The mention of the Holiday Inn is the first real clue, however, that this is intended as a joke. Given that in the hours after the attack Anderson Cooper said the criminals and seditionists who attacked the Capitol would be heading to Olive Garden and the Holiday Inn after they were allowed to walk away from the crime scene. Now, setting aside that this idea reinforced false ideas and stereotypes about MAGA cult members being of lesser means (they were at the Hyatt, not the Holiday Inn), this enraged Sean Hannity who went on a rant about how great the Olive Garden was.

The fake release was created and began circulating (we’ll get to how and why in a second) but it went viral so fast that Hannity had to reassure viewers he wasn’t actually banned from the restaurant.

Now, if Sean Hannity wants to gorge himself at the same place my friends and I celebrated before our junior year homecoming dance, fine. And if Olive Garden is cool with having their brand associated with folks who want to see the end of American democracy, that’s cool too. Though I don’t think “when you’re here, you’re fascists” is a good slogan. But what happened here is interesting and illuminating, not just because it’s funny that Sean Hannity had to defend his Olive Garden privileges, but because it’s a study in how virality works and how quickly these things can get out of control and develop a life of their own.

Just ask the man who initially created the graphic that so many were touting at an official ban even though it was dripping with sarcasm and pointed humor. Louie Mantia Jr. is a designer based in Portland, Oregon, who thought this all would be funny (which it was) but also didn’t think it would go as far as it did. He took down the post and tried to explain things, but even when he did so on … it didn’t make much of a difference.

Mantia was mainly trying to make a pointed joke about brand responsibility. And it is indeed absurd that we want and expect brands to have to take a stand against fascism.

But Mantia learned extremely quickly how bad social media is at discerning what’s real and what’s fake. It’s not just that people didn’t get the joke because they weren’t reading closely, they ignored it because they wanted this to be true and because we are so conditioned to accept utter absurdity nowadays that we can see something like “Sean Hannity loses Lifetime Pasta Pass” and we just shrug and think “weirder things have happened today, this tracks.”

But the damage was done and there will be people out there who will forever believe that Sean Hannity lost his Olive Garden privileges, and that’s just … the weird world we live in. For their part, the actual Olive Garden Twitter account has been busy debunking the post, but hasn’t made any bans or statements on the Capitol attack.

(via: Willamette Week, image: Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.