The owner of a Chicago Deli has again caused controversy, this time by posting a tweet after the mass shooting incident in Las Vegas essentially saying that country music fans deserved to be murdered at a concert.
Greg Morelli, one of the owners of Max’s Deli in Chicago’s Highland Park, jumped to his Twitter account as soon as he learned of the shooting in Vegas with a tweet posted at 7 AM on Monday morning. In it, Morelli hinted that he was happy the shooting wasn’t an incident of racism and was glad it was white people shooting at white people.
“Soon as I heard it was country music, I felt relief. White people shooting white people isn’t terror… it’s community outreach,” the restaurant operator said in his now-deleted tweet.
Attempting to explain his meaning, Morelli, a Hillary Clinton supporter, told the Chicago Tribune, “As a white guy, I was relieved that it wasn’t across race lines, or religion lines or (an attack) from outside the country. When I heard the news, I said, Please God, don’t let it be war.”
The backlash started immediately, and the restaurant began to get threatening phone calls. The staff became alarmed enough to close the deli down early for the day on Monday to avoid enraged customers.
But after the backlash hit, the deli owner decided to apologize for the tweet saying that it was just a “dumb joke.”
“It was seven in the morning, and I was stressed out and freaked out by the shooting,” he told the paper.
“It was a dumb joke, and it didn’t work. I own it. It was stupid,” Morelli later said.
A full day after his initial “dumb joke,” Morelli posted a message to Facebook apologizing for the tweet.
“I own the words I wrote. They hurt people. I apologize,” he insisted in the post.
After a rambling note including what he would eat for breakfast (“oatmeal with bananas, blueberries, strawberries and a little bit of milk”), Morelli said, “I tried to participate. But all I did is put my foot in my mouth. These mass shootings have me freaked out.”
If the comments section of his Facebook page is any indication, few accepted his apology.
A call to Max’s Deli resulted in a statement that the store was no longer taking questions about the owner’s tweet.
This isn’t the first time Morelli has courted controversy.
About a month ago the deli owner raised eyebrows by creating a menu featuring a caricature of Donald Trump dressed as a Nazi and giving a Hitler salute. He added a caption reading, “I am with the Alt-Right.”
Morelli received much criticism for the cartoon, but instead of apologizing, the deli owner was defiant.
“I do not regret assigning symbolism to hatred. I do not regret being trashed on Facebook. That said, it hurt,” he told the Tribune in August.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston