Fact check: Anti-mask message on barbeque joint sign result of altered image – USA TODAY

The claim: Barbeque restaurant sign mocks mask-wearers as “sheep” 

An image of a North Carolina barbeque joint’s supposed message to masked customers has attracted widespread and spirited reactions on social media. 

A Feb. 19 Facebook post shows a red neon sign above a letterboard. The board’s message reads, “We serve pork we do not serve sheep, so take off the stupid mask.” 

The post accumulated more than 70,000 shares and 175,000 reactions in less than three days. Other copycat posts circulating the image have also attracted significant online traffic. In each, comments show many users believing the image is legitimate and reacting accordingly.

“Where is that cause I definitely want to go eat there and shake there (sic) hand!!!!” said one user.

Another objected, “I’m not going to wear a mask but I don’t believe we should judge anyone who does. It’s freedom of choice.”

But commenters are reacting to a sign that doesn’t actually exist.

The anti-mask sign is the latest in a long line of altered images based on the sign, which can be created using an online generator that lets users choose the sign text.

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USA TODAY reached out to the user associated with the principal post for comment. 

Restaurant management says the image is fake 

The picture shows the sign for Little Pigs in Asheville, North Carolina, but management says no such text ever appeared on their sign.

“Whatever you see is a fake,” Little Pigs manager Matt Thomas told USA TODAY of online posts that use the sign. “It’s a lie.” 

Thomas told USA TODAY the restaurant frequently hears of falsified sign messages. As of Feb. 21, the restaurant’s sign held a much less controversial message: the menu special. 

The frequency of the false messages is due to a website that allows users to customize the sign’s letterboard in a matter of seconds. This function uses the same image of the Little Pigs sign that appears in the claim, a south-bound facing image of the sign and letterboard on a cloudy day.

Meme-makers have used the image to incite reactions online for many years. As reported by WLOS News 13 in Asheville, a 2018 edit ribbed now-former President Donald Trump as a “Lying fat pig” and went viral on social media. The restaurant’s owners identified this message as false as well.

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A Tineye reverse image search of the image reveals that many other iterations of the meme exist online, including some that are derogatory in nature. 

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that a barbeque restaurant sign mocks mask-wearers as “sheep.” The image of the Little Pigs letterboard used in this claim is altered. Restaurant management confirmed that such a message has never appeared in front of their establishment. Many altered versions of this sign are circulating online due to a website that allows users to put their own text on it.


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