The owner of a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia reportedly refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Friday night out of “moral conviction,” telling Sanders she wasn’t welcome in the establishment because she works for the president.
The Hill first reported on the incident after a man who claimed he was Sanders’ server at the Ren Hen restaurant posted about it on Facebook. Jaike Foley-Schultz wrote that Sanders was kicked out within minutes of entering the Red Hen.
Foley-Schultz’s post was amplified by Brennan Gilmore, the executive director of an environmental group in Virginia. Gilmore also tweeted out a handwritten note denoting an “86” above Sanders’ name — which is food service lingo for denying service to a customer — that he implied came from the same restaurant.
— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) June 23, 2018
Sanders confirmed the incident on Saturday morning, tweeting that Red Hen’s owner told her to leave because of her role in Trump’s administration.
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
After the social media reports spread, online reviewers flocked to criticize the Ren Hen for denying service to Sanders, flooding the restaurant with negative reviews.
Though Sanders was critical of the restaurant owner in her tweet — writing that “[h]er actions say far more about her than about me” — the Trump administration has been supportive of other instances when business owners have denied service to certain people based on their moral convictions.
For instance, the White House celebrated a Supreme Court ruling handed down earlier this month that sided with a Colorado baker who refused to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, citing First Amendment rights.
“In this case and others, the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously defend the free speech and religious freedom First Amendment rights,” Sanders said at the time, hailing the ruling as a victory for religious freedom.
Following a national outcry over the Trump administration’s harsh policy separating thousands of families at the southern border, which reached a fever pitch this week and led the president to backtrack on the practice on Wednesday, several Trump officials have faced protesters at D.C.-area restaurants.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was greeted with chants of “shame” from protesters as she dined at a Mexican restaurant on Tuesday night, while White House senior adviser Stephen Miller was derided as a “fascist” at a different Mexican restaurant on Sunday. It’s still unclear why Nielsen and Miller thought eating at Mexican restaurants amid an escalating humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border would be the best PR move for them.
UPDATE: Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas and Sanders’ father, tweeted a defense of his daughter on Saturday afternoon, claiming that her experience at Red Hen exemplifies “bigotry.”
Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the “Hate Plate”. And appetizers are “small plates for small minds” https://t.co/rHEVdcQwwh
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) June 23, 2018