The owner of Wenger’s Grocery Outlet in Mifflinburg, Pa., posted a sign on the storefront's window blaming LGBTQ+ people for “spreading deadly diseases” while delving into conspiracy theories relating to the pandemic.
The sign gave 24 points, the top two of which encouraged people not to attack those who are not wearing masks because it is “their choice for their health.”
“IS THIS REALLY AN EPIDEMIC???? OR IS IT A POLITICAL ISSUE????,” the owner wrote in all caps. “WHAT HAPPENED TO COMMON SENSE???? It is HIGH time we treat COVID-19 the same as any other flu? We didn’t wear masks for other flu seasons, or social distance. Science and statistics are proving COVID-19 is not as serious as it originally was.”
The message continued to paint the virus as a political issue by falsely quoting Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as saying, “It’s vital that governors maintain restrictions on businesses until after the November elections because economic recovery will help Trump be re-elected. A few business closures or job losses is a small price to pay to be free from his presidency.”
This specific quote, which we now know to have been a Photoshopped tweet, was fact-checked and proven false.
Ocasio-Cortez tweeted about the quote, writing on Twitter last month, “I usually don’t tweet to correct fake posts about me bc the right circulates so many, but needless to say the alleged ‘deleted’ reopening tweet people are saying I wrote is a photoshopped fake being circulated by Republicans. They tell lies because the truth isn’t on their side.”
The store’s message also noted that wearing a mask could lead to “low productivity” as well as depression and anxiety. It also claimed that wearing a mask indoors could cause “high levels of Carbon Diozide-CO2,” which results in “high sick leave” from work.
The owner later attacked LGBTQ+ people by blaming them for “spreading diseases.”
Lisa Streett-Liebetrau, a Mifflinburg native, told local publication The Daily Item, "If a business chooses to publicly state their personal anti-LGBTQ beliefs, I will exercise my right to spend my money elsewhere. I will no longer be a patron of this establishment or any other that is prejudiced to LGBTQ or other disenfranchised groups."
She added, "I'm also appalled at their lack of respect for the health and safety [of] others by posting their anti-mask stance. The last time I shopped there, I noticed their employees were not wearing masks, and have not been back since."
JanAnn Todd, a Williamsport resident, told the outlet, "I think that this store — that has this up on their front door — has not taken into consideration the multitudes of customers who shop at this store. And the fact that they are a religious-based community grocery store really speaks volumes to the lack of customer service. They cite statistics, which may be accurate, but there are so many unknowns with this that I find it appalling that they would take such a stance on the choice to not wear masks.”
Todd added, "Having a gay son, that really infuriated me. This store really has caused some outrage on so many levels."
The store’s flyer elaborated on its LGBTQ+ stance by saying, "A lot of these same people (blowing it out of proportion) support LGBTQ. This life style is sin in God's eyes."
The flyer concluded with: “TURN YOUR LIFE TO JESUS. STUDY THE BIBLE AND CAST ALL YOUR FEARS ON JESUS, HE WILL SUPPLY YOUR NEEDS."
The owner of the store, Mark Wenger, chose not to comment when reporters requested a quote.