A Brevard County business owner is facing backlash on social media for a worker's comments to a customer about the presidential election.

  • Brevard McDonald's owner faced heat on social media over flag
  • Flag is lowered to half-staff when a law-enforcement officer dies
  • Customer was misled into thinking it was about election, owner says

Now, he's trying to convince the community it's not a reflection of his chain of family operated McDonald's restaurants.

"Every time something happens with a police officer, or something happens with the community, I right away put something up on the reader board to let people know," said Joe Rodriguez, whose family owns several McDonald's restaurants on the Space Coast.

He and his family like to support law enforcement, and each time an officer dies in the line of duty, their name goes up on store marquees, and the stores lower American flags to half staff.

In this case, Miami police motorcycle Officer Jorge Sanchez was killed in a major crash last week. The restaurant put up a tribute Monday — the day before Election Day.

Rodriguez said that on Wednesday, a drive-thru customer asked why the flag was flying at half staff. But before the cashier could answer, he said an employee behind the clerk yelled out, "America died last night."

"I get customer complaints that I've lowered the flag to half staff, and is this because of the election," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said the customer took to social media to complain, and the negative reactions took off. With that, he saw his positive reputation in the Titusville community slipping away.

"All the negative comments of having the flag at half staff, and it's not because of the election," Rodriguez said.

He's decided to raise the flag as normal until things get better. In the meantime, he's hoping one employee's outburst doesn't do any permanent damage to his business.

"My family, the Rodriguez family, McDonald's, we are all about the community," he said.

The customer who made the original social media post has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Rodriguez said the status of the employee who made the comment remains unclear.

Joe Rodriguez, who owns several McDonald's restaurants on the Space Coast, says the lowered American flag was to honor law enforcement officers lost in the line of duty, not to protest the election. (Greg Pallone, staff)