After a June 15 2020 Facebook Live video from Stacey Talbert (during which she sobbed over a delayed Egg McMuffin at a Georgia McDonald’s) went viral, a couple of tweets claimed that Talbert was a security guard posing as a police officer:
The McMuffin lady isnt even a cop and basically admits to having worn a security guard uniform to go buy things so people will give her discounts and free stuff loll
You can't make this crap up.
— Allen Ortega: 2021 Edition (@kenjisalk) June 17, 2020
Stacey Talbert’s Video
Talbert’s June 15 2020 video received more than 11 million views on Facebook Watch in just five days — but the version that originally went viral was shared in a since-deleted tweet and account by another woman:
MarketWatch quoted and paraphrased the climax of the video, in which a sobbing Talbert recounts being asked to pull over and wait for her order (which was, as mentioned, an Egg McMuffin meal) to be assembled and brought out to her. It appeared in the time between her pulling over and a McDonald’s worker bringing her a coffee, Talbert descended into an intense panic attack about the safety of her order:
[The video] features Talbert explaining that she placed a mobile order for an Egg McMuffin meal. But her order wasn’t ready when she went to pick it up.
“And I’m waiting. And I’m waiting. And I’m waiting,” she says. She was told to pull over to the side, and an employee eventually came over and gave her a coffee. But Talbert’s order was supposed to include an Egg McMuffin and a hash brown, as well.
“That’s all she hands me is the coffee,” she says, breaking down into tears. “I said, ‘Don’t bother with the food because right now I’m too nervous to take it!’ It doesn’t matter how many hours I’ve been up. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done for anyone. Right now, I’m too nervous to take a meal from McDonald’s because I can’t see it being made!”
She didn’t clarify her suggestion that the McDonald’s staff was tampering with her food, telling BuzzFeed on [June 18 2020] that, “I am telling you I have no idea of that, and I didn’t take it to find out.”
McDonald’s Franchise Owners Respond, and the ‘Shunned Officer’ Urban Legend
On June 19 2020, the same news outlet published an emailed statement from the McDonald’s locations owners, Gary and Jill Stanberry.
The statement indicated that Talbert experienced a “longer than usual wait time,” prompting the tearful video:
Unfortunately, we were made aware of a local police officer who experienced a longer than usual wait time and did not receive her full order right away at one of our restaurants. We have been in contact with this officer to apologize for this unsatisfactory experience and let her know that we would love to correct the inaccurate order when she has time. We are happy to report that the officer was never denied service and also shared positive feedback on the employee with whom she interacted.
Gary and Jill Stanberry also stated that Talbert was “never denied service” at the time she recorded the video. That claim is a well-worn piece of a larger, older urban legend known as the “shunned serviceman,” folklore that jumped from servicemen to police officers in December 2014.
At that time, there were a number of ongoing protests over New York City’s failure to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner; New York City police then falsely claimed they were denied service at a Brooklyn Chipotle. The story was later proved untrue, but the story began spreading to other chains and locations via social media.
Talbert Speaks to BuzzFeed
In an unexpected stance during a BuzzFeed video, Talbert stated she believed the online jokes at her expense were humorous, while maintaining she was anxious about police/community relations in June 2020:
“I’m not bitching. I think that shit’s funny,” Talbert told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview Thursday. “‘Cop Karen’ — whoever did that, that’s funny. ‘Molly McMuffin,’ someone called me. That’s funny! I’d make money if I was that funny.”
But Talbert — who said she has worked in law enforcement for 15 years, but as a deputy in McIntosh County near Savannah for just four months — said she felt that as her video went viral it also lost the real message she was trying to convey: the fear she felt in that moment.
“It really had nothing to do with McDonald’s and the food. That was just what triggered it,” she said. “This feeling we feel in law enforcement constantly. You’re always looking, we’re arching our necks, to make sure everything is safe not just for you, but for everyone else. There are times I wish I could just be normal and not have to feel like that.
“Everyone completely lost the point except for law enforcement. We all feel that way except I voiced it.”
Talbert also claimed to support Black Lives Matter protests:
Talbert said she wholeheartedly supported Black Lives Matter protesters and acknowledged the fears they may feel while dealing with authorities were valid. But she said she could only speak to her own fears.
“How fair of me is it to honestly talk about other people’s pain when I have no idea about it. I’m white. How am I going to talk about any one else’s pain? How would I even know? They’re truly not the same fears and I would never say that because it’s not fair of me to say. It’s a different thing, it’s a different feeling.”
Two County Police Departments Disclaim Affiliation with Talbot
Online rumors about Talbert not “actually being a cop” began circulating, intensifying after a June 17 2020 Richmond Hill Police Department post was published:
In that post, the Department acknowledged “multiple phone calls and messages” about Talbert’s Facebook Live breakdown, adding that Talbert neither worked for nor represented their Department and that they “contacted the agency she works for” to express their “concerns.”
Ambiguity in that post led, understandably, to rumors that Talbert was not an officer. That may have been exacerbated by the same department in Richmond Hill being quoted in national news coverage of the video:
Captain Brad Sykes of Richmond Hill (Ga.) Police Department told USA TODAY that the department had received hundreds of calls about the incident, even though the officer in the video does not work for at that department.
But a June 17 2020 NBC News post provided a more detailed descriptor of Talbert’s position and affiliation:
Stacy Talbert, a sheriff’s deputy in McIntosh County, Georgia, told NBC News that she recorded herself in a Facebook Live video [June 15 2020] after an overnight shift, not out of fear but to share her frustration.
Naturally, people sought out the McIntosh County police or sheriff on Facebook to discuss Talbert’s video. Complicating matters further was a June 17 2020 post attributed to the “McIntosh County Sheriff’s Department” also denying that Talbert had worked there:
It would be understandable if anyone who read both posts then concluded that Talbert worked neither for police in Richmond Hill or McIntosh County. What the second post from the McIntosh Country Sheriff’s Department on Facebook failed to clarify, however, was that the particular McIntosh County denying that she was an employee was the McIntosh County in Oklahoma, not the one in Georgia.
We were unable to find any Facebook presence for a McIntosh County, Georgia police department or sheriff’s office on Facebook. One commenter on a thread about whether or not Talbert was an officer noted that if that department had any presence, all of it seemed to have become non-functional at some point:
We found a very dated website that appeared to include a domain — http://mcintoshcountyso.com/ — for the McIntosh County, Georgia sheriff’s office. However, the second domain displayed a very brief message:
Website is offline for maintenance
We attempted to contact the McIntosh County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office to clarify Talbot was then-currently employed. We left a message and are awaiting a response.
On June 15 2020, Stacy Talbert’s “Officer McMuffin” Facebook Live video went viral when a since-deleted Twitter account shared the clip. Talbert spoke to several national news organizations about the video, and the McDonald’s franchise owners also issued statements. When two separate police or sheriff’s departments shared posts saying that Talbert did not work there, rumors spread that she was only pretending to be in law enforcement. Although it is very possible that Talbert works for a police or sheriff’s department in McIntosh County, Georgia, we have not yet received direct confirmation — or denial — from any of them.