AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - Augusta's mayor is warning about spreading false information after a video by a local business owner went viral last night.
The owner of well-known seafood restaurant 'The Red Barn' posted a scathing video to Facebook, accusing the city of fining her for a fundraiser supporting veterans.
“It's been quite hectic.” That's how Augusta Mayor David Rollins describes the hours since that viral video was posted Friday night.
In the video, The Red Barn Restaurant owner Laura Benedict accuses the city of levying a fine for a noise complaint one year after an event she hosted to benefit veterans. She says tearfully in the video, “After a year, they thought that was an intelligent thing to do. Thank you to the City of Augusta. I would love for this to go viral.”
And go viral it did.
It's been deleted off the Red Barn's timeline - but the video is closing in on one million views.
“I was really puzzled,” said Rollins. “It was a head scratcher. I was kind of blindsided.”
He faced dozens of voicemails and emails in response to the video. One person told him, “You represent what is wrong with elected officials.”
There's one problem though - Laura Benedict got some of the information wrong.
“I'm being fined $200 for sending our heroes to Washington DC,” she said in the video. She claims it's for a noise complaint during an Honor Flight fundraiser from July 6, 2016.
However - the fine was NOT from the night of the Honor Flight event.
“She went ballistic over it without really digesting what it was,” said Rollins.
Here's the problem, according to Mayor Rollins: Benedict did not apply for a mass gathering permit for an event in 2016.
The city was going to let it slide, until the same thing happened this year: a noise complaint from a neighbor, and no permit for Benedict’s event.
Benedict declined an on camera interview, and said at this point she just wants it all to blow over. She told NEWS CENTER that while she does regret overreacting and posting that viral video before knowing all the facts, she doesn't regret what she said in it.
Just hours after the video - Benedict posted a correction status. She told NEWS CENTER she even paid $1,000 on Facebook to sponsor the post to guarantee more people saw it.
Compared to the original video which has been shared over 30,000 times - the correction has only been shared just over 300.
The mayor says while he feels no animosity towards Benedict, there's a lesson to be learned. “The power of the Internet, the power of misinformation,” he said. “We are seeing it everywhere in society right now, between tweeting and Facebook and false information. It's really something that everybody on both sides of the camera has got to be aware of.”
He also added, “It wasn't about the veterans. It was never about the veterans. The city of Augusta is a huge supporter of veterans as is The Red Barn.”
Benedict says although this was a big misunderstanding, she hopes it will bring more attention and donations to her Honor Flight fundraiser coming on July 24th.
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