Washington Post: Did a barista mishear a name or was it anti-Islamic bias?

I knew the media’s no good, very bad week wasn’t over. The Washington Post is still covering itself with glory in the form of this absurd piece published Friday evening. It’s impossible to ridicule something this silly so I’ll just quote it:

Niquel Johnson paid for three drinks in Philadelphia on Sunday, and in typical Starbucks fashion, an employee asked for his name. Johnson, 40, told them “Aziz,” his Islamic name pronounced ah-zeez. He has used it for 25 years — and “countless” times at that particular store.

But three unusual things happened on this occasion, he said. When his order was ready, a staffer announced them by drink type, not his name.

The second unusual part was the employee wrote his name as “ISIS” — the acronym for the Islamic terror group — in the printout attached to all three drinks…

“I was shocked and angry. I felt it was discrimination,” Johnson told The Washington Post on Friday.

The backstory here is that a year ago a Starbucks manager in Philadelphia called the police on two black customers who used the bathroom and then sat without ordering. That led to a boycott and Starbucks’ CEO apologized and ordered all 8,000 stores to hold mandatory bias training. The incident was a very bad moment for the company. But so far, Starbucks is saying that they don’t believe this incident involved any bias: “After investigating, we don’t believe this was a case of discrimination or profiling. The customer approached and provided the name Aziz. The barista mistakenly spelled it incorrectly.”

That sounds like a pretty reasonable explanation to me. The barista misheard the name and put down ISIS. After all, it’s not exactly unheard of for Starbucks baristas to get someone’s name wrong. Now, if Johnson had said his name was “Niquel” and the cup said “ISIS” then maybe you’d have reason to suspect profiling but Aziz and Isis do sound pretty similar.

This story of possible bias was also covered by The Philly Inquirer. Unlike the Post, the Inquirer story explains how this minor dustup became news in the first place:

Sunday after leaving work, Philadelphia resident Abdul Aziz Johnson stopped at a Chestnut Hill Starbucks on Germantown Avenue with two friends and ordered three iced drinks, according to Jacob Bender, the executive director of CAIR-Philadelphia, the local chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations…

In a press release, Bender asked, “Was this an innocent mistake, or a sick joke associating Mr. Aziz and his friends, who were wearing traditional Muslim clothing, with the extremist group responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in Iraq and Syria, thus perpetuating the lie that Muslims are uniquely prone to violent behavior and terrorism?”

Timothy Welbeck, the lawyer representing Johnson, met with his client on Wednesday, who said he has ordered from this Starbucks before and no other barista had any problem with his name. The barista, like Johnson, was African American, Welbeck said.

So the Post story is basically a rewrite of this CAIR press release only the Post doesn’t tell you that. That’s an odd choice given that CAIR has a vested interest in seeing stories of anti-Islamic bias make the news. Also, the Inquirer quotes the line from the CAIR press release which acknowledges that this might have been an innocent mistake. The Post never mentions that even though it seems like a significant admission, one that matches with the explanation given by Starbucks.

The Post is literally pushing the bias incident angle harder than CAIR. Let that sink in a moment.