Utah company objects after Blaze Media reporter ties its coffee to alleged Kenosha shooter

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune file photo ) The Black Rifle Coffee Company retail store in Salt Lake City in 2017.

A Salt Lake City coffee company said it objected to a tweet posted by a Blaze Media reporter who tied its coffee to Kyle Rittenhouse, accused of killing two people during an August protest in Wisconsin.

Elijah Schaffer tweeted a since-removed photo of the 17-year-old wearing a Black Rifle Coffee Company shirt with the caption, “Kyle Rittenhouse drinks the best coffee in America.” The teenager was released Friday after supporters raised his $2 million bail.

Schaffer posted a discount code for the coffee under the post with the photo. And online, commenters questioned whether the coffee company had a sponsorship deal with Rittenhouse and accused it of supporting murder and hate.

But Black Rifle Coffee, a sponsor of Schaffer’s Slightly Offens*ve podcast, said in a statement Saturday that it is not sponsoring or supporting Rittenhouse.

A spokesperson for the coffee company told The Salt Lake Tribune on Saturday afternoon that the company was terminating its sponsorship of Slightly Offens*ve, but late Saturday, she said she had misunderstood.

“We are not fluctuating our ad spend,” she said in a text message. “We did have a conversation with Schaffer, and he understands that the post was a mistake.”

Earlier in the day, she had said: “We don’t traffic in national tragedy and to us, that’s what this is. We are not legal experts or members of law enforcement. We fully support all law enforcement officials and believe in the integrity of the legal system.”

After clarifying the company’s continuing sponsorship of Blaze Media, she added: “Our concern is that use of the discount code in the post did not reflect our values. That’s a concern we’ve addressed with the journalist and that he understands.”

Blaze employees “make decisions about how to allocate ad dollars within the Blaze,” she said, but she did not clarify whether Black Rifle would request to end its placement as a podcast sponsor. She said the company and Blaze are discussing “how to move forward with the allocation of ad dollars.”

Black Rifle Coffee is a Salt Lake City-based roaster that brands itself as a gun-loving, conservative company started by veterans. In a statement Saturday afternoon, co-founder Evan Hafer said, “We do not support legal advocacy efforts. We do not sponsor nor do we have a relationship with the 17-year-old facing charges in Kenosha, WI.”

Rittenhouse faces charges that he allegedly shot and killed two people and injured a third during an August protest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

The photo of Rittenhouse in the Black Rifle Coffee shirt was posted by attorney Lin Wood, who represents Rittenhouse and is assisting President Donald Trump in challenging the presidential election outcome in Georgia. Wood identified the two men standing with Rittenhouse as attorney John Pierce, at left, and actor Ricky Schroder.

The company’s spokeswoman said it is focused on making coffee and supporting the military community, and it will not comment on an ongoing legal matter.

But Twitter users criticized Black Rifle on Saturday for not explicitly condemning Rittenhouse’s alleged actions.

“You’d think if @blckriflecoffee DIDN’T condone the murder of two people at the hands of #KyleRittenhouse they’d speak up,” tweeted actress Yvette Nicole Brown.

In 2017, the company drew attention as the right wing’s preferred roaster after conservative pundits, including Donald Trump Jr. and Sean Hannity, praised it in the wake of controversy over the Keurig coffee machine company.

Keurig pulled its ads from Hannity’s show because he defended Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of inappropriately touching a teenage girl and pursuing other teenagers in his 30s. After Hannity viewers said they were boycotting Keurig, Trump Jr. promoted Black Rifle Coffee on his Twitter page.

“Great coffee, great guys and great Americans @seanhannity I’ve had the chance to meet and hang out with them. Try it. #blackriflecoffeecompany,” Trump Jr. wrote.

At the time, Hafer told The Tribune he didn’t know anything about the accusations against Moore, and attributed controversy over the company to its conservative stance.

“We’re a controversial coffee company because we’re openly conservative,” said Hafer, whose company was then roasting about 1 million pounds of coffee each year. “When I say conservative, it’s because of the things that we really believe in. I believe in the Constitution. I believe in the Second Amendment. I believe in family.”