Richard Kadesh and another man stood outside a Mexican restaurant in Walpole nearly a week before the election with a large blue Trump flag hanging out the back of a pick-up truck.
He posted a photo of it on Facebook: “They’re paying for the wall!”
Ricardo Dorronsoro, owner of Jalapeno’s Grill, said his 23-year-old daughter, who lives in New Zealand, found the Facebook post and was hurt.
“My dad has been a small business owner in Walpole for over 10 years,” Sabrina Dorronsoro wrote a few days later in a Facebook post that shared Kadesh’s original. “He has been a citizen for well over 20. He shouldn’t have to walk out the front door of a place he has worked so hard to build to be greeted with hateful words and bogus requests.”
Kadesh’s Nov. 3 post and the Dorronsoro family’s response went viral.
On Thursday, a week after the original post, Kadesh took out a full-page ad in the Walpole Times, apologizing to Walpole residents, the restaurant, and the entire Dorronsoro family for “extremely distasteful” post he had made.
It was “an awful attempt at making a joke,” he wrote.
Dorronsoro said Kadesh had called the restaurant earlier in the week to speak with him personally.
“He apologized, saying it was meant to be a joke,” said Dorronsoro in a phone interview Saturday. “I said, ‘My friend, your jokes are in very poor taste. You hurt my family, you hurt my kids, you hurt my community.’ ”
It felt like a hate crime, said Dorronsoro, but he accepted Kadesh’s apology during their phone conversation, advising him to “think twice” before doing anything like that again.
“I can’t reiterate enough how badly I feel about it,” said Kadesh in a separate phone interview Saturday.
Kadesh, who lives in Walpole, dines at Jalapeno’s Grill and enjoys the food, he said. He had taken the photo before dinner that Thursday night and posted it online while waiting for appetizers.
Kadesh said he is not tech-savvy and did not realize that the Facebook post was set to “public” and could be seen far beyond those his own Facebook friends.
“I understand that I lean right in a left state,” said Kadesh. “It wasn’t intended for the left-side audience that doesn’t know me. It was intended for the right-leaning side of the audience, and the left-leaning side that knows me and that I commonly interact with on Facebook.”
Kadesh was glad to have Dorronsoro accept his apology earlier in the week, but took out the Walpole Times ad because “I wanted everybody else who was offended as well to know that I felt regret for it,” he said.
Since the incident, Dorronsoro said he and his family have received much support from the community — more than he or his daughter had expected. Facebook comments on the page expressed criticism about the incident as well as passion for the restaurant and its food.
“I don’t consider myself to be the most politically correct person by a long shot, but I don’t consider myself to be a racist by any means,” said Kadesh, who said that he received intense backlash via Facebook, e-mails, and phone calls for his Facebook post. “... I did something wrong, I’m trying to do the right thing.”
Dorronsoro said as painful as the incident was, he intends to leave it in the past.
“I just want to forgive him and move on,” said Dorronsoro.
“We have been reminded all week just how supportive our community truly is and we appreciate it more than we can put into words,” wrote Jalapeno’s Grill in a post to the restaurant’s official Facebook page Friday afternoon. “Gracias, amigos.”