Posting to her Twitter account this Saturday morning, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders revealed that she was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant because she works for President Trump. In the tweet, she cited the name and location of the restaurant, the Ren Hen in Lexington, Virginia, but that hasn’t stopped people from confusing it with a restaurant with the same name in the D.C. town of Bloomington. According to a report from the Washingtonian, the D.C. restaurant, which is completely unaffiliated with the one in Lexington, is now on the receiving end of death threats and harassment.
Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
Red Hen of D.C. owner Mike Friedman says the restaurant has been bombarded with calls, emails, and misdirected Yelp reviews since the incident Lexington. One person even threw eggs at the building. But most concerning are the death threats that have reportedly targeted the restaurant.
Friedman has tried to mitigate the problem by notifying the media that his establishment had nothing to do with the Sanders incident, but the problem was only made worse when President Trump fired off a tweet this morning calling out the Red Hen — without specifying which one he was referring to.
“The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Trump tweeted Monday morning. “I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”
The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
According to various reports, Sanders was dining with her husband and about eight people at the Lexington Red Hen on Friday night when its owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, was notified by employees by a phone call to her home that they were uncomfortable with Sanders’ presence.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told The Washington Post, adding, “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Wilkinson went to the restaurant, pulled Sanders aside, and asked her to leave.
In the wake of the incident, a debate as to whether or not the Wilkinson’s actions were justified blew up on social media. But according to the former Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub, Sanders’ usage of her official Twitter account to air her personal grievances against a private business is a “clear violation” of ethics rules.
“Sarah, I know you don’t care even a tiny little bit about the ethics rules, but using your official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a),” Shaub tweeted in response to Sanders. “It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out.”
Sarah, I know you don’t care even a tiny little bit about the ethics rules, but using your official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a). It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out. https://t.co/Fj6OfBAdew
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2018
Snopes reporter Bethania Palma (who is the sister of the author of this article) predicted the fallout, telling DeadState this Saturday that Sanders’ tweet would likely result in a campaign of harassment from Trump loyalists.
“[Sanders] just used a government social media account, where she has 3 million followers, to call out a restaurant, which will now receive a stream of threats and harassment that may never end,” Palma said.
Yelp has shut down activity on the Bloomington Red Hen’s page, citing the fact that it’s now the center of a national news story.
“This business recently made waves in the news, which often means that people come to this page to post their views on the news,” a notification on the restaurant’s page read. “While we don’t take a stand one way or the other when it comes to these news events, we do work to remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.”
Featured image via screen grab/YouTube