Donald Trump takes aim at Virginia restaurant that asked his press secretary Sarah Sanders to leave

White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, after staff reportedly expressed concern about serving her.
White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, after staff reportedly expressed concern about serving her.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - US President Donald Trump lashed out on Monday (June 25) at a Virginia restaurant that refused to serve his press secretary, writing on Twitter that the Red Hen has "filthy canopies, doors and windows" and "badly needs a paint job".

The President's attack on the exterior of the tiny farm-to-table establishment came in response to an incident on Friday night in which its owner asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave on grounds that she worked for an "inhumane and unethical" administration.

Sanders had been out for dinner with friends, the cheese course already on the table, when owner Stephanie Wilkinson took her aside and requested that she leave the restaurant in Lexington, Virginia.

"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," Trump said in his Monday tweet. "I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!"

Trump, who has described himself as a germaphobe, remained uncharacteristically silent about the episode over the weekend, even as it became the talk of social media and cable television and he tweeted about an array of other subjects.

Sanders took to her government Twitter account on Saturday to explain that she had "politely left" when asked.

"Her actions say far more about her than about me," Sanders said of Wilkinson. "I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so."

Wilkinson said her staff had expressed concern about serving Sanders.

This month, they had all watched Sanders evade questions and defend a Trump policy that caused migrant children to be separated from their parents.

Several Red Hen employees are also gay, she said. They knew Sanders had defended Trump's desire to bar transgender people from the military.

"I'm not a huge fan of confrontation," Wilkinson said. "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."

She said she believed that Sanders worked in the service of an "inhumane and unethical" administration. That she publicly defended the President's cruellest policies, and that that could not stand.

All the same, she was tense as she walked up to the press secretary's chair.

"I said, 'I'm the owner,'" she recalled, "'I'd like you to come out to the patio with me for a word.'"

They stepped outside, into another small enclosure, but at least out of the crowded restaurant.

"I was babbling a little, but I got my point across in a polite and direct fashion," Wilkinson said. "I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation. I said, 'I'd like to ask you to leave.'"

Wilkinson didn't know how Sanders would react, or whether Trump's chief spokesman had been called out in a restaurant before - as the president's homeland security secretary had been days earlier.

Sanders' response was immediate, Wilkinson said: "'That's fine. I'll go.'"

Sanders went back to the table, picked up her things and walked out. The others at her table had been welcome to stay, Wilkinson said.

But they didn't, so the servers cleared away the cheese plates and glasses.

"They offered to pay," Wilkinson said. "I said, 'No. It's on the house.'"

Wilkinson had no regrets about her decision.

"I would have done the same thing again," she said. "We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one."