BERKELEY, Calif. (KTVU) - Cole White, the employee who was outed as attending a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend, which led to him losing his job at a Berkeley hot dog restaurant, released a statement on Wednesday.
"I am not a white supremacist," he said. "Nor was I ever."
The statement in full reads:
I attended the Unite the Right rally because it was being reported as the biggest right-leaning event of the year with a large number of people expected to be present. After having witnessed first hand the violent attempts made by far left groups to disrupt what would otherwise be peaceful conservative gatherings in recent months, I knew Charlottesville would be a notable event. It was the infamous salutes, chants and actions that have widely represented this event to the public as a white nationalist rally, despite the comparatively small number of individuals behind them, and for this reason, I believe many participants and attendees are being unjustly targeted and demonized. I want to make it clear that I am not a white supremacist, nor was I ever. Though people with such beliefs were obviously present, assuming that those were the beliefs of the entire crowd is uniformed and irresponsible, due to the fact that many people attended for the same reason as I did, which was to meet other conservative leaning individuals and to stand for freedom of speech. My portrayal over social media and the mainstream media has been inaccurate, biased and completely unjustified.
The management of a hot dog chain told KTVU on Monday that a controversial employee voluntarily resigned from his Berkeley job after being involved in the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In an email from the Top Dog office, the management said that Cole White, who had worked at the Top Dog on Durant Avenue, "was involved in the recent 'alt-right' rally… Later that day we spoke with Cole White. During that conversation Cole chose to voluntarily resign his employment with top dog (sic) and we accepted his resignation."
The email went on to say: "We pride ourselves on embracing and respecting all our differences and every individual's choice to do as that person wishes within the boundaries of the law. We do not endorse hatred or any illegal conduct. It simply is not part of our culture… We do respect our employees' right to their opinions. They are free to make their own choices but must accept the responsibilities of those choices."
White was not fired, as had been reported, the company emphasized. "Those reports are false," the company stated. "There have been reports that Top Dog knowingly employs racists and promotes racist theology. That too is false."
KTVU tried to find White on Monday to speak to him but had no success.
White's name and photo circulated this weekend on Twitter, first outed by someone with the handle @YesYoureRacist, who was documenting white nationalism at the rally in Virgnia, where three people died and which was sparked by talk of removing a confederate statue in town. That person also did not respond to KTVU's request for an interview on Monday.
Top Dog received angry Yelp reviews on Saturday and Sunday from customers who said they would boycott the hot dog chain if they employed Nazi supporters.
Top Dog added in its lengthy statement to KTVU: "Since 1966, top dog (sic) has been devoted to serving quality hot dogs to the Oakland and Berkeley community at an affordable price to everyone who walks through our doors. Our employees and customers come from all backgrounds and beliefs. This has helped build the community within and around top dog and one of the reasons why we have been open for business for more than 50 years."
KTVU's Rob Roth and Lisa Fernandez contributed to this report.