Trump attacks small business that refused to serve Sarah Huckabee Sanders

Virginia’s Red Hen Restaurant targeted by the White House after press secretary heckled

By Sophia Tesfaye

Published June 25, 2018 9:59AM (EDT)

Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)
Sarah Huckabee Sanders; Donald Trump (Getty/Salon)

Some of the most visible members of the Trump administration are wearing a sort of scarlet letter these days, finding themselves ostracized from polite society as they carry out the forced separation of families by the federal government. Now, upset that they’ve been disrupted from enjoying meals out in public, Team Trump is fighting back and targeting a small business for retribution.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not answered reporters’ questions in seven days. She won’t face them on Monday either, as the White House announced Monday’s daily press briefing is canceled, leaving no official behind the podium in the midst of the administration’s biggest controversy since its mishandling of Hurricane Maria. But, like her boss, Sanders is tweeting.

"Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave,” Sanders tweeted over the weekend. “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.”

On Monday, the President of the United States followed up with a tweet of his own targeting the small farm-to-table restaurant.

Trump’s vicious attack comes after a week during which, aside from Sanders being asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant on Friday, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was shouted out of an upscale Mexican eatery in D.C. and a top White House adviser reportedly faced similar treatment at another Mexican restaurant.

All three of the incidents come as the Trump administration grapples with the fallout from its "zero tolerance" policy at the southern border. Even though Trump last week signed an executive order allowing families to remain together amid crushing bipartisan outrage, there is no indication that separated families are being reunited. Children began to be separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border after Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed the Justice Department to prioritize the criminal prosecution of individuals who cross the border illegally, including some asylum-seekers.

"This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals," Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkins told the Post. "We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one," she said of asking Sanders to leave her establishment Friday evening. Wilkinson said Sanders quickly agreed to leave.

The Red Hen the owner quietly took Huckabee outside and asked her to leave. No scene, no mob, but the administration is treating this small business like an enemy of the state. Like right-wing protests outside of abortion clinics, civility has little room in certain protests. Based on the panicked reactions to these pointed protests, it is clear that the Trump administration is starting to feel uncomfortable — not over images of children in cages — but about being unable to eat tacos in peace. 

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Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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Conservatives Donald Trump Gop Red Hen Sarah Huckabee Sanders Small Business