The Anti-TSA Cafe

Is a SeaTac-area restaurant denying service to agents, or is it a hoax?

Some stories are just too good to check. Stories like the supposed anti-TSA cafe in SeaTac. Last week, a woman calling herself K.C. McLawson posted a comment on the blog of consumer-advocacy journalist Chris Elliott. McLawson told Elliott something rather remarkable: She claimed that the cafe where she worked near Sea-Tac International Airport had begun refusing service to TSA agents. "My boss flies quite a bit and he has an amazing ability to remember faces," wrote McLawson. "If he sees a TSA agent come in, we turn our backs and completely ignore them, and tell them to leave. Their kind aren't welcomed in our establishment." Elliott knew he had a story—in the years since 9/11, TSA agents have overtaken Catholic priests on America's list of Least Favorite Gropers. The only problem was that his "source" was getting cold feet. In a follow-up e-mail, McLawson told Elliott that her boss "wasn't too hot" on the idea of being outed. And as a 40-year-old disabled mother of two boys, she also said she worried that talking more could cost her her job. McLawson may have been wary about sharing more of her story, but local and national media weren't. Time, The Consumerist, and The Huffington Post are just three of the more recognizable outlets that regurgitated McLawson's claims without bothering to see if they could be checked. And as it turns out, anyone who might be able to confirm McLawson's story has either said nothing about it or vigorously denied it. In her original comment, McLawson claimed that local police had sided with the cafe, going as far as to help escort out unruly TSA agents. But in an e-mail conversation with Seattle Weekly, King County Sheriff's Office spokesman John Urquhart, also spokesman for SeaTac police, said he's never heard of any such incident. "Personally, I'm skeptical of the whole story," wrote Urquhart. "TSA seems to be the government agency du jour to vilify lately. With all the comments posted about this story, you would think someone would have come up with the name and location by now." Both the TSA and the union that represents its agents were similarly dismissive of McLawson's claims, as were the managers of a dozen SeaTac-area businesses that we called to confirm the story. Rather than deny them service, many of those same businesses said that they offer airport workers, including TSA agents, deep discounts in order to lure them in. As Mike Condon, owner of Mike's Community Cup, said in response to whether he thought McLawson's story was a hoax: "In this economy, I don't know how anyone could afford to not serve someone."

 
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