Obama Hug Brings Out the Worst in Yelp

That guy—the owner of the pizza place in Florida, dude who bear-hugged Barack Obama last weekend: His manly exuberance set off a shit show on Yelp. The Los Angeles Times reported that as of early this morning, Scott Van Duzer’s Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Fort Pierce, Florida, had racked up more than 2,300 reviews on Yelp, from both detractors and defenders—of Van Duzer’s politics.

(Yelp’s infamous algorithm must have deleted most of those reviews since stories like the one in the Times hit: As of this writing, Big Apple Pizza showed 446 reviews, 412 of which dropped five stars on the burly Van Duzer.)

“Bear hugs for the win,” wrote Kenneth G S. of Washington DC in a terse five-star review dated September 12. “Move over, bigoted chickens!”

Chris L. of Vero Beach, Florida, posted a more nuanced four-star review—possibly because he’s eaten Big Apple’s food. “I've had better,” he said of the pizza, but acknowledged it’s still “pretty good.” Chris L.’s harshest critique was of Van Duzer’s political critics. “To all the out of state, right-wing nut jobs trying to ruin this guys business with your b.s. and lies should be ashamed of yourselves!” And in case that wasn’t clear, Chris L. appended a P.S.: “(Right-Wing Nutjobs) You can also all eat a dick.”

But a one-star review by Gail A. of Portland, Oregon, had no patience for those who would man-hug POTUS. “No matter how long, hard and high up in the air the pizza store owner hugs the bro...the pizza still sucks and the unflavorful crust tastes like crap.” Gail A. suggested Yelp itself showed political bias for seeming to favor five-star reviews, and planted a parting bitch-slap on Van Duzer’s supporters: “Go grow some balls all you liberal left wing nut cases.”

Look, if the whole Chick-fil-A situation showed the nation anything, it’s that not even a fried chicken sandwich and some waffle fries can escape politicizing. For a long time, the Yelp algorithm has been about as little-trusted as government itself is for some Americans, its mechanics just as murky. Relying on Yelp reviews, like following politics in the media these days, takes work: You’ve got to filter out the stuff you find annoying to get to the useful bits—that is, the parts confirming what you already think.

That could mean that a place in St. Lucie County, Florida, makes a pizza as good as at Di Fara in Brooklyn, or that an exuberant hug from a Republican business owner like Van Duzer could actually mean anything.

Photo from Big Apple Pizza / Yelp

John Birdsall is senior editor at CHOW. You can follow him on Twitter. Follow CHOW, too, and become a fan on Facebook.