In an incident exposing sharp political divisions in American society, a restaurateur in Virginia on Friday night turned away White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders (pictured) and her family after some gay employees in her outlet allegedly objected to her presence as she had defended President Donald Trump’s plan to bar transgender people from the military.
Sanders confirmed the incident at Red Hen restaurant in Lexington through a tweet. She said the restaurant’s co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson told her to leave because she “works for POTUS [President of the United States].”
Sanders said the incident spoke far more about the restaurateur than about her.
Defending the expulsion of Sanders, Wilkinson told The Washington Post that when she asked the restaurant staff whether she should tell Sanders to leave, they said “yes”. She understood their concern and talked to Sanders privately. The White House top aide immediately agreed to leave.
What led to the outcry on social media later was a Facebook post by Red Hen restaurant waiter Jaike Foley-Schultz immediately after the incident. He wrote he had just served Sanders for two minutes before his owner “kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members.”
The post was shared on Twitter along with a note left by the restaurant’s staff for the morning manager, which said: ‘86 — Sara Huckabee Sanders.’
The lingo ‘86’ used in restaurants is a coded slang for ‘item on the menu not available’ (to refuse a customer service). It is also used as a verb to mean ‘eject’ or ‘get rid of’. The note suggested the restaurant wanted to ‘eighty-six’ Sanders.
The Sanders incident left users of social media divided. Her father Mike Huckabee tweeted bigotry is the menu at Red Hen. One woman wrote she will never step foot in the eatery. Another social media user said if he ever goes to Lexington, he will make sure to dine there.
One man, who lives near the restaurant, said he is not sure whether to eat from the outlet anymore. Leaving politics aside, the restaurant should have seen Sanders as a paying customer who came to have dinner with her family, he said.
Supporting the restaurateur, another user said he too will not allow in anyone from the Trump administration to his business or home.
Sanders’ incident comes weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. The court, however, said the ruling should not be seen as a precedent.
Earlier this week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to leave a Mexican restaurant in Washington DC by patrons angry over Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy that saw Mexican children separated from their detained and illegal migrant parents at border.
Stephen Miller, who is said to have formulated the policy, was called a fascist whilst dining in another Mexican restaurant last Sunday.