New York Times columnist David Brooks sparked a social media uproar after he tweeted a photo of a $78 meal at Newark Airport and blamed it on the state of the economy. Many users accused him of being out of touch and insensitive to the struggles of ordinary Americans amid rising inflation and the pandemic.
The tweet that went viral
On Monday, Brooks posted a photo of a burger, fries, and a half-empty drink on X – formerly known as Twitter – with the caption: “This meal just cost me $78 at Newark Airport. This is why Americans think the economy is terrible.” The tweet quickly went viral, attracting more than 36 million views and thousands of replies, most of them mocking or criticizing Brooks for his complaint.
Some users pointed out that Brooks had ordered a whiskey on the rocks, which could have inflated the bill significantly. The owner of 1911 Smoke House BBQ, the restaurant where Brooks bought the meal, confirmed that the burger and fries cost $18.99, while the whiskey was $29.50 per double shot. Brooks would have had to order two doubles to reach the $78 total, excluding tax and tip.
Others questioned Brooks’ logic of linking his airport meal to the economic woes of Americans, who are facing higher costs of living, lower wages, and job insecurity. Some noted that Brooks, who reportedly earns a six-figure salary from the Times, is hardly representative of the average consumer. Many also pointed out the irony of Brooks, who often writes about morality and ethics, complaining about the price of a luxury item while millions of people are struggling to afford basic necessities.
The response from Brooks and the restaurant
Brooks addressed the controversy in an interview with PBS on Friday, saying that he had made a mistake and that he was joking when he tweeted the photo. He said he was in a state of “sticker shock” when he received the bill and that he meant to mock himself for being out of touch. He admitted that he was insensitive and stupid to post the tweet and that he should not have written it. He also said that he probably should not write any tweets at all.
The restaurant, meanwhile, had some fun with the situation by offering a special deal for customers who mention Brooks’ tweet. The deal includes a burger, fries, and a soda for $18.99, plus a free shot of whiskey. The restaurant also posted a sign outside its door that reads: “David Brooks ate here and all we got was this lousy tweet.”
The broader context of the tweet
Brooks’ tweet came at a time when many Americans are feeling the pinch of inflation, which has reached its highest level in 13 years. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the consumer price index rose 5.3% in August from a year ago, driven by increases in food, energy, housing, and transportation costs. The pandemic has also disrupted the supply chains and labor markets, creating shortages and bottlenecks that have pushed up prices.
Many economists and policymakers, including the Federal Reserve, have argued that the inflation surge is temporary and will ease as the economy recovers from the pandemic. They have also pointed to the benefits of the fiscal stimulus and the vaccination programs that have boosted consumer spending and confidence. However, some analysts and critics have warned that the inflation could persist and erode the purchasing power and living standards of Americans, especially the low-income and middle-class households.
Brooks’ tweet, whether intended as a joke or not, touched a nerve among many people who are feeling the economic pressure and anxiety. It also highlighted the gap between the elites and the masses, and the perception that the media and the political establishment are out of touch with the realities and challenges of ordinary Americans.