Arkansas Restaurant Posts Racist Sign Calling Affordable Care Act ‘Punishment for Slavery’

Johnny Howard says health-care reform will force him to close "at least one location."
Johnny Howard says health-care reform will force him to close "at least one location." Photo: imgur via Reddit

The owner of a barbecue restaurant in Rogers, Arkansas, says he’s sorry for posting a large sign reading “Obamacare, America’s Punishment for Slavery Years,” atop a giant pole outside of Smokin’ Joe’s Ribhouse. The racist sign was reportedly up for a mere 45 minutes Friday night before numerous complaints compelled Johnny Howard to take it down and apologize publicly, telling a reporter at local ABC affiliate 40/29 Fort Smith Fayetteville that he didn’t intend to post a “racist-oriented” message outside his business and the whole thing was a “mistake.”

“It’s the policy and I made the mistake of wording it in the wrong fashion,” he said, adding, “The policy. It’s not the person it’s the policy.”

After receiving several complaints, the restaurant changed the sign to read: “Why cook? Get some carry out.” Howard says he’ll refrain from turning his marquee into a soapbox in the future, but claims the Affordable Care Act will cause him to permanently close “at least one” of his three Smokin’ Joe’s locations. While maintaining that his message wasn’t intended to be “racist-oriented at all,” Howard did not explain how, exactly, he connected the history of slavery in the United States with health-care reform. His lackluster, unconvincing explanation of his motives has inspired a trickle of unambiguous feedback directed toward the restaurant online.

One review points out that on a recent visit, the ribs were “slimey” and service was slow at Smokin’ Joe’s. “Also,” it continues, “they are racist right-wing nut jobs.”

Restaurant owner posts racially-charged sign [40/29 TV via Reddit]