Political News

Trump Criticizes Restaurant Refusing to Serve His Press Secretary

Posted June 25, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT

President Donald Trump on Monday criticized a Virginia restaurant that refused Friday to serve White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, offering a somewhat belated defense of a prominent figure in his administration after she was targeted for her association with his policies.

“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,” he wrote. “I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”

Sanders, whose question-and-answer sessions with reporters in the White House briefing room place Trump’s agenda and his antagonistic approach to the press on regular, public display, said Saturday that she had been asked to leave the Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, because of her role in the administration.

The press secretary said she “politely left” after the establishment’s owner had asked that she do so, adding in a Twitter post the next day that the owner’s “actions say far more about her than about me.”

Trump’s criticism of the restaurant — calling it “dirty” and “filthy” — was notably more animated than his defense of Sanders, whom he called “a fine person,” suggesting the degree to which the president has cooled to his press secretary, according to people close to him.

Trump routinely asks people privately what they think of Sanders and has told her he is going to “grade” her on public appearances. He has viewed her as weak, these people say, ever since the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April, when Sanders sat at the head table listening to a brutal roast of her by a comedian, without getting up to walk out in protest.

The incident at the Red Hen was the latest in which a member of Trump’s inner circle was singled out for public repudiation, after protesters had heckled Kirstjen Nielsen, the secretary of homeland security, and Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior policy adviser, in separate incidents at Mexican restaurants in Washington.

Both were targeted specifically because of their roles in creating and carrying out Trump’s tactic of separating migrant children from parents at the border as part of a zero-tolerance approach that demands that all unlawful entrants to the United States be prosecuted as criminals.

As the public face of Trump’s White House at the West Wing lectern bearing the presidential seal, Sanders personifies his approach to press scrutiny, deflecting many questions and often offering answers that prove to be inaccurate.

The incident quickly became an acid test for the stark political divide in the country that played out on the Red Hen’s online review pages, with some progressive activists offering effusive praise for the farm-to-table restaurant and conservative stalwarts denouncing the owner’s actions.