Olive Garden, the restaurant best known for its unlimited breadsticks, has found itself in the middle of an unlikely culture war.
The casual-dining chain was yanked into the forefront of cable TV Wednesday when CNN’s Anderson Cooper quipped the D.C. rioters would be going to celebrate at Olive Garden when they vacated the Capitol.
“Look at them, they’re high-fiving each other for this deplorable display of completely unpatriotic, completely against law and order, completely unconstitutional behavior,” Cooper said in the on-air clip. “And they’re going to go back to the Olive Garden and to the Holiday Inn that they’re staying at, or the Garden Marriott, and they’re going to have some drinks and they’re going to talk about the great day they had in Washington.”
Following his remark, “Olive Garden” quickly began trending on Twitter, with fans coming to the chain’s defense and calling Cooper’s remark classist. Fox News anchors backed the eatery as well, with commentator Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson both plugging it in subsequent segments.
“There’s nothing wrong with Olive Garden. Let me just give a plug for Olive Garden. I like Olive Garden. I like their salad — unlimited — unlimited garlic breadsticks that are phenomenal. Some nights, you get unlimited pasta,” Hannity said, calling the comment “indicative” of CNN looking down on “real people.”
Olive Garden parent company Darden Restaurants Inc. didn’t comment but did say an apparent Olive Garden statement making its way around the internet Friday that said the chain would revoke its lifetime pasta pass to Hannity was a “spoof.”
Holiday Inn owner InterContinental Hotels Group didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. Marriott International Inc. declined to comment.
Cooper said on Friday that the controversy was a distraction from the incident at the U.S. Capitol.
“Just for the record, I like the Olive Garden — I like the artichoke dip, even though it has spinach dip, which I hate,” he said. “The is just a diversion from a crime that was committed, a crime in which people died.”
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