White House press secretary Sarah Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant because she works for Donald Trump, becoming the latest administration official to be singled out for their support of the president.
Ms Sanders said that she was asked to leave by the owner of the Red Hen, in Lexington, on Friday night and she “politely left”. The senior Trump official said that the owner’s actions “say far more about her than they do about me”.
The owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, said that she had told Ms Sanders her establishment “has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation”
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Ms Wilkinson told The Washington Post. “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
The newspaper said Ms Wilkinson believed that Ms Sanders was in service of an “inhumane and unethical” administration, and dealt with the situation after staff had raised concerns about Ms Sanders dining in the restaurant.
Ms Sanders and her party were waiting for their main courses when Ms Wilkinson gathered her staff to ask if they wanted her to ask the press secretary to leave. The staff said yes and Ms Wilkinson took Ms Sanders outside to talk – where the owner said she had had got her point across in a polite and direct manner.
The incident, which makes Ms Sanders the third Trump administration official to be confronted over president’s policies in the last week, split opinion. Some praised the restaurant for taking a moral stand, while supporters of the president called for a boycott.
“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS,” Ms Sanders posted on Twitter. ”I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”
Jaike Foley-Schultz, who claims he is a waiter at the restaurant, wrote on Facebook: “I just served Sarah huckabee sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members.”
A handwritten note said to be from the restaurant was later circulated on social media, having been tweeted by Brennan Gilmore, executive director of the progressive group Clean Virginia. It showed Ms Sanders’ name next to the number 86 – kitchen slang for ‘throw out’.
Ms Sanders’ father, Mike Huckabee, was certainly not amused. The former governor of Arkansas, who has run for the presidency twice, responded to her tweet by writing: “Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the “Hate Plate”. And appetisers are ‘small plates for small minds’.”
Predictably, perhaps, the controversy led to the Red Hen receiving hundreds of reviews on its Yelp and Facebook pages – with most commenting on the owner’s actions rather than, for example, the pan-seared pork chops.
The five-star reviews included responses like: “Thank you for refusing to serve a person who lies to the American people for a living.”
There were also a number of one-star reactions. “Freedom loving people should think twice before supporting this kind of bigotry and hate,” wrote one unimpressed reviewer.
Senior administration officials have faced a fierce backlash over Mr Trump’s ”zero tolerance” approach to illegal immigrations across the US border. The policy has led to more than 2,300 children being separated from their parents and families, as adults are arrested and sent for prosecution.
Kirstjen Nielsen, the homeland security secretary, was booed out of a Mexican restaurant in Washington by protestors over the implementation of the separation policy earlier this week. While Stephen Miller, a senior advisor to the president and one of the architects of the policy faced a similar fate at another Mexican restaurant in the city’s hip Shaw neighbourhood.
A number of the new reviews of the Red Hen mentioned the issue of border separations. “At no time [in the restaurant] was my family separated from each other,” one response said.