A few days before the Los Angeles Times published its article about Frito-Lay alleging that Richard Montañez, a former janitor working at the company, had been lying about being the inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos for the last two decades, National Public Radio (NPR) produced a story about Montañez that backed his assertion that he was, in fact, the creator of the spicy chip.
Now, journalist Sarah Aida Gonzalez is reviewing the NPR story again since, as an editor’s note now says before the article begins, “statements made in this episode have been called into question.”
On Twitter, Gonzalez and NPR are making their ongoing investigation transparent as they work to either stand by their story that Montañez is the inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or if the L.A. Times story is accurate and Montañez’s claim to fame was really just an “urban legend,” as Frito-Lay told the newspaper.
Through a series of tweets, Gonzalez stated that while NPR asked “multiple direct questions” to Frito-Lay inviting them to “directly deny Montañez’s involvement in creating Hot Cheetos,” they did not. She writes, however, that the company “did suggest that two independent teams could have worked separately to create the product.”
Gonzalez then mapped out her correspondence with Frito-Lay over email, phone and text from May 3-10. She says they initially told her “…we do not credit the product creation to him and him alone” and later said Montañez “was part of it. Yes. Sure.” Then, they confirmed that there was “a Richard Montañez product” that was produced
This, of course, is a far cry from the statement Frito-Lay gave to the L.A. Times saying: “None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market.”
Gonzalez also states that some former Frito-Lay workers remember learning about samples Montañez’s was making at his plant but that Frito-Lay “did not specifically say” if those samples were Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Frito-Lay added that two former employees “specifically” remember the samples were Hot Cheetos.
To read more of Gonzalez’s fact checking into her own article on Twitter.