White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant due to her role in the Trump administration, igniting fierce debate around the rights of restaurants to serve whomever they want.
“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,” Sanders wrote on Twitter. “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.”
Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen, defended her actions.
“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation,” she said. “I would have done the same thing again. We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”
As usual, online forums were overrun with commenters from both sides. Some argued that refusing to serve someone based on their political beliefs is discrimination, while others argued for the right of the restaurant owner to do as they wanted within their business. The debate comes only weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a baker who refused to bake a custom cake for a gay couple, citing a clash with his religious beliefs.
Sanders has also come under fire for using the official Press Secretary Twitter account to share her story, which could be interpreted as an attempt to discourage patronage to a business – a violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a), a law that prevents government employees from using public office for private gain.