Both backlash and support after Pronto Pups owner posts rant

Ottawa County

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Less than a full day after a Facebook tirade from its owner, there was no shortage of customers at Pronto Pups in Grand Haven.

The corn dog staple is getting a lot of attention and backlash after a long rant that derided the Black Lives Matter movement, minimized the coronavirus pandemic and even mentioned convicted killer Jeffrey Willis.

The Monday evening post began, “Have a seat. This is going to hurt a little” and then continued for more than a dozen paragraphs.

Pronto Pups owner Carl Nelson wrote that he was upset about the executive order to wear a mask while working and added, “If any of you believe this is a health issue, unfriend me. Please. This is 100% political.”

At one point he wrote that he was going to paint “WHITE LIVES MATTER” down Washington Street and considered running for president of a militia that the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group. He mentioned using “fire power.”

He also wrote that he believes Jessica Heeringa was still alive and at his shop when Jeffrey Willis was on trial for her murder. Willis was convicted in 2018 of killing Heeringa in 2013, though her remains have not been found.

After the post removed, another post on Pronto Pups’ Facebook page said the rant was meant for Nelson’s personal account and was “in no way representative of Pronto Pups as a business or our staff members.”

More than a thousand people reacted, most of them upset and saying they would boycott the business.

The owner shut down the page for a short time, saying he had to gather his thoughts. When he reactivated it, he again apologized, writing, “As the deterioration of our nation and freedom as we have enjoyed over the decades begin to dwindle away,… I snapped.”

As usual, there were long lines outside Pronto Pups Tuesday. Some said they were there because of the post and one person donated $250.

News 8 reached out to the owner Tuesday, but he refused to comment.

Grand Haven’s city manager told News 8 that that “the comments in the Facebook post do not reflect the feelings or values of the city of Grand Haven,” pointing to the city’s equity and inclusion statement. The city manager said the city is reaffirming that equity and inclusion statement (PDF) Monday.

The city Human Relations Commission will discuss the Pronto Pups post at its July 23 meeting, which will stream online starting at 5:30 p.m.

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