Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker claims he was accused of being a shoplifter, and subsequently frisked in public, by an employee at an Upper East West Side deli yesterday. A rep for Whitaker, who is in town filming Black Nativity, told TMZ he was at the Milano Market on Third Avenue and 89th Street in Morningside Heights when one of the workers claimed to have seen him snag an item Friday morning. And then the worker gave the Battlefield Earth actor a public pat down.

Of course, no items were found, and Whitaker left quietly afterwards. His rep told TMZ, "This was an upsetting incident given the fact that Forest did nothing more than walk into the deli. What is most unfortunate about this situation is the inappropriate way store employees are treating patrons of their establishment. Frisking individuals without proof/evidence is a violation of rights." Hmm, well, that really depends on who is doing the frisking, doesn't it?

The rep added, "Forest did not call the authorities at the request of the worker who was in fear of losing his employment. Forest asked that, in the future, the store change their behavior and treat the public in a fair and just manner.” Which sounds very reasonable! It's just too bad that policy of courtesy can't extend to everyone involved with making stops-and-frisks. And the people who can't even say the word "frisk."

No one at Milano Market would give comment to us when we called today. Which means they've probably learned their lesson: only bad things can come of frisking the man who played Idi Amin, Ghost Dog, AND directed Waiting To Exhale.

Update: Although TMZ initially reported that Whitaker was frisked at the Upper East Side location of Milano's Market, it seems they were wrong—according to witness Nicole B., Whitaker was indeed frisked at the deli, only as their Upper West Side location on Broadway between 112th and 113th Streets. She told us what she saw on Friday:

He walked into Milano's right in front of me around 12 noon. I thought he looked familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. I got into the sandwich line. The next thing that happened was my sandwich maker was looking at the door as he was handing me my sandwich. I turned around and saw that another employee was patting the man up and down very aggressively.

He was quiet at first, I think in shock. When they didn't find anything, they told him to leave at which point he said, "No, I want to speak with someone. You can't just touch me like this." Everyone in the store was quiet and in shock. As it was happening, I finally IDed him.

Nicole B., who lives in the area near the Market, added that, "I have seen the guys there do this to a black customer before. I have also heard them say some racist crap about the Obamas too. It is unlikely I will be shopping there again."