A sheriff’s officer who complained about her drive-thru fast-food order — captured in a viral video that has drawn ire and sympathy from social media users — said many people have missed the point she was trying to get across.
McIntosh County, Georgia, sheriff’s Officer Stacy Talbert told NBC News that she recorded herself in a Facebook Live video early Monday after an overnight shift, not out of fear but to share her frustration.
“It’s not that people are waiting in the wings to hurt us,” she said Wednesday. “It’s that people don’t trust us.”
The video immediately became an example of the nation’s sharp divisions in opinions about police officers. Conservatives said they were appalled that Talbert was deliberately mistreated by restaurant workers, while police critics said she was being overdramatic and acting entitled about a delay in getting a fast-food meal.
The three-minute video had been viewed 8.2 million times by Wednesday evening. It was posted Tuesday night by a conservative account on Twitter. That video had been viewed 13.4 million times by Wednesday evening.
In the video, Talbert, who lives in downtown Savannah, said she visited a McDonald’s restaurant in Richmond Hill on her way home from work.
She said she waited in the drive-thru to get her food after placing a mobile order, “so that, you know, people don’t pay for my stuff, because I just always like to pay for it myself.”
When she pulled up to the first drive-thru window, Talbert said, she was handed her receipt and proceeded to the next window, where she waited for her food.
“And I’m waiting and I’m waiting and I’m waiting,” she said into the camera.
She said a female employee asked her what she ordered.
Talbert said she repeated her order — a McMuffin meal with hash browns and a coffee — and was then asked to pull her car up to wait for it.
“So I pull up forward and a girl comes out with my coffee,” she said. “And just the coffee.”
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Her voice began to shake as she said, “And she hands it to me and I had my window down and that’s all she hands me is the coffee. So I told her, I said, ‘Don’t bother with the food because right now I’m too nervous to take it.'”
“It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ve been up,” she continued. “It doesn’t matter what I’ve done for anyone. Right now, I’m too nervous to take a meal from McDonald’s because I can’t see it being made,” she said in the video, wiping at tears.
Talbert said into the camera that she does not know “what’s going on with people nowadays, but please just give us a break. Please just give us a break.”
She added: “I don’t know how much more I can take. I’ve been in this for 15 years, and I have never, ever had such anxiety about waiting for McDonald’s drive-thru food.”
At the end of the video, she said, “Just have a heart, and if you see an officer just tell them, ‘Thank you,’ because I don’t hear ‘thank you’ enough anymore.”
In an interview Wednesday night, Talbert said the video had nothing to do with McDonald’s, which she said she visits frequently.
“Everybody lost the whole point of the video,” she said. “I’m just so sick of people being mean.”
Talbert said she spoke with the owners of the restaurant and explained that she had not been mistreated by the staff. She said she was nervous to take the meal because she has felt generally suspicious as of late.
In a statement Wednesday, the restaurant owners, Gary and Jill Stanberry, said they had apologized to Talbert for what they described as an “unsatisfactory experience” and told her they would love to correct the order.
“We are happy to report that the officer was never denied service and also shared positive feedback on the employee with whom she interacted,” they said.
“Our priority is for all customers to feel welcome and enjoy a great customer experience in our family-owned restaurants, including local law enforcement officers who protect and serve our community.”
The hashtags #McMuffin and #OfficerKaren were trending Wednesday on Twitter, where the video drew praise and condemnation.
“Stacy has a right to be nervous! People are crazy!!!! Pray for our cops,” one tweet read.
Another said, “These police officers r being hung out to dry! We need to fight for them.”
Others questioned whether she was fit to be an officer and carry a gun.
Filmmaker Darryl Wharton-Rigby dubbed her #CopMcMuffin and said she “needs to go on a long vacay, because she shouldn’t be out in the streets w/ a gun, a taser, a baton, nor a happy meal.”
Writer Roxane Gay tweeted: “Karen in law enforcement, who is supposed to have sound judgment and courage, cried because she had to wait 3 minutes for her McMuffin & then became paranoid for no reason and was sad people don’t thank her for not murdering them? They need to make that lil cop test harder.”
“Karen” is a derisive nickname for an arrogant, entitled white woman, often used on social media as a pejorative.
Actor and comedian David Alan Grier asked: “Soooooooooo, she’s upset cause her order was messed up and she had to wait???!!!?? Not that the server was rude or threatening or belligerent but because she had to wait and they forgot her egg McMuffin????”
Talbert said that she has seen people call her Cop Karen and Molly McMuffin online and that it has made her laugh.
“It’s actually kind of funny,” she said. As an officer, Talbert said, “you take everything you have and tuck it away so you can be unbiased and deal with other people’s problems.” In her video, she said she expressed a concern for her safety currently shared by other officers.
She understands why some people may interpret her video unfavorably.
“It was completely selfish,” she said. “Maybe that’s insensitive. But if everyone else is saying what’s going on with them. Why can’t I?”
Her intent was not to take away from people who are hurting, she said.
“I just wanted to share that I hurt, too,” she said.