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Families of teens respond to viral TikTok video falsely accusing them of wearing blackface

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The TikTok app logo.

The TikTok app logo appears in this Sept. 28, 2020, file photo. The family of two teens falsely accused of wearing blackface and dressing as inmates for Halloween in a now viral video filmed at a Cedar City Walmart have responded to the famous Tiktok account that they say started the rumor.

Kiichiro Sato, Associated Press

The families of two teens falsely accused of wearing blackface and dressing as inmates for Halloween in a now viral video filmed at a Cedar City Walmart have responded to the TikTok account that they say started the rumor.

In a statement issued by Jeffrey Walker, an attorney hired by the families in the wake of the backlash, they accuse Denise Bradley of spreading false information to her 1.6 million followers and are demanding a retraction and apology.

If she doesn't, a defamation suit is not off the table, Walker says, although they “remain hopeful that Ms. Bradley will publicly acknowledge her mistaken identification of these two innocent minors.”  

Shortly after the video from the Walmart gained traction on social media, Bradley, who goes by the name auntkaren0 on TikTok, posted a video to her followers that identified two Cedar Valley High School teens as the people in the racist incident.

An investigation conducted by the school found that both teens were nowhere near the Cedar City Walmart on Halloween.

Still, Bradley issued a call to action, posting the contact information for Cedar Valley in the video and telling her followers to complain about the students.

“While we are unsure how Ms. Bradley identified (the two teenagers), we surmise that Ms. Bradley confused Cedar High School or Canyon View High School both located in Cedar City where the incident occurred, with Cedar Valley High School located in Eagle Mountain, Utah — more than 200 miles apart,” reads a statement from Walker. “Further, Ms. Bradley never contacted either (teenager) to confirm or clarify whether they were in these videos.”

Walker sent a letter to Bradley demanding the video be taken down. Bradley complied, but did not issue an apology. On Thursday she posted another video, highlighting a fake Instagram account posing to be one of the minors.

In the video, Bradley admits she isn’t sure whether the 16-year-olds were involved in the blackface video, but still identifies them by name while questioning whether the fake Instagram account indeed belonged to one of the teenagers.

“Everything right now is alleged, we don’t have any confirmation,” she says in the video. “It is unclear what’s really going on and whether or not (these teenagers) actually had anything to do with it. Either way, like, Utah needs to get their (expletive) together, because this is ridiculous.”

On Tuesday, thousands of people called, emailed and messaged Cedar Valley High School, the Alpine School District, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office and other people and groups associated with the community. As of Friday, the family said calls and messages are still coming in.

Cedar Valley alone received over 1,600 calls and 3,000 emails, shutting down the school’s phone system for the day.

“Many of these comments and threats have been so vitriolic that (the teenagers) and their families continue to worry about their safety,” reads the statement. “Suffice it to say these past days have been devastating to these two innocent teenagers and their families. (The teenagers) have been subjected to unwarranted negative attention by Ms. Bradley’s failure to accurately report the story. (The teenagers) need to have their names cleared and be allowed to resume their high school lives. Hopefully, that can happen.”

The Iron County School District, which encompasses two high schools in Cedar City, is conducting an ongoing investigation, but said on Wednesday that the three young people who wore blackface as part of their Halloween costumes are not enrolled in any district schools.

Bradley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.