Following DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen being heckled out of a Mexican restaurant by protesters days earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the first Trump official to be ejected from a restaurant by the owner herself.
Reports of Sanders being 86’d from Virginia’s Red Hen restaurant as if she were the long lost sister to SNL’s Butabi brothers has led the national conversation to question if this reaction is acceptable. Not only is it acceptable, it’s needed.
The administration has quickly seized on the event as an attack on someone’s political views. It’s not. Sarah Huckabee Sanders wasn’t ejected for her preference toward a fiscally conservative budget; she was kicked out due to her advocacy of bigoted views via policy. Specifically, the Trump administration’s decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military, and the implementation of forced separation of undocumented migrant children from their parents as they cross the southern border.
Ultimately, Wilkinson’s staff (many of which are gay) felt uncomfortable with Sanders in the restaurant, and she implemented their request: that Sanders leave. “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,” Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen told The Washington Post.
Wilkinson was civil and professional when she spoke to Sanders, even taking the press secretary to a patio away from the dining room to inform her she would need to leave.
After a note left in the restaurant by night management mentioning Sanders’ ejection went viral, the press secretary addressed the issue herself:
At best, this is disingenuous. On multiple occasions, Sanders has been rude to members of the White House press corp. Most recently, Sanders insulted CNN’s Jim Acosta from the briefing room podium when he asked for a response on Attorney General Jeff Sessions citing the Bible in defense of the family separation policy.
Former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, was quick to point out that Sanders’ use of her official government Twitter account to attack a small business owner for personal reasons was a violation of federal ethics laws.
Guess who else made the same violation on Monday morning?
This guy can’t even post a Yelp review on the correct site.
Former Fox News host and serial sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly commented on the Red Hen incident as “Insulting people holding different political views is not the American way.” This was not an uncommon take… from pundits on the left and the right.
We can not allow hate to be fully redressed as “different political views.”
From banning migrants from seven majority Muslim countries in the administration’s initial “travel ban,” to stating black athletes peacefully protesting systemic racism “shouldn’t be in the country,” many of Trump’s policies and views are marinated in bigotry.
How many more times must we hear (or say), “This is not normal” before our reactions reflect it?
People SHOULD stand up when members of a minority community being attacked by this White House voice that they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Wilkinson is an example of how to peacefully reject hate in the Trump era.
We also can’t allow the advocators of bigotry to be painted as the victims.
Hucakbee’s criticism of his daughter’s early dinner dismissal fell on the classic “tolerate my intolerance” argument. Just hours earlier, Huckabee tweeted a legitimate example of bigotry:
As the extreme right attempts to make this narrative about their false victimhood (silly snowflakes!), we must remember to re-direct the conversation to the policies that have made minority communities feel unsafe under this White House.
The Red Hen incident is not the same as the events involving hecklers confronting Kristjin Nielsen, Stephen Miller or Pam Bodi. In Virginia, people in the minority community reached out for help and someone heard them.
“I would have done the same thing again,” Wilkinson told WaPo when asked if she had any regrets. “We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”
I’ll drink to that.