“Many by now have heard that I was asked to leave a restaurant this weekend when I attempted to have dinner with my family,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a packed press briefing room Monday as she kicked off her first White House briefing in about a week.
“My husband and I politely left and went home. I was asked to leave because I work for President Trump. We are allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely and without fear of harm. And this goes for all people, regardless of politics.”
She noted some people “have chosen to push hate and vandalism against the restaurant that I was asked to leave from,” while Rep. Maxine Waters has since the incident “called for people to push back and make clear to those serving their country and this administration that they are not welcome anywhere, any time, for anything.”
“Healthy debate” on political philosophy is important, she said, but calls for harassment and suggestions Trump supporters stay out of public is “unacceptable.”
Pivoting sharply, she added: “America is a great country and our ability to find solutions despite those disagreements is what makes us unique. That is exactly what President Trump has done for all Americans by building a booming economy with record low unemployment for African Americans and Hispanics, the defeat of ISIS and ongoing work to achieve pace on Korean Peninsula.”
President Donald Trump was among those pushing hate against Red Hen Restaurant, in a tweet seeming to suggest it be shut down for health code violations, though it passed its most recent inspection in February with no violations.
“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 tweeted this morning of the Virginia eatery. “I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside.”
Asked why she used her official Twitter account to tweet about the incident, which some have suggested is an ethics violation, Sanders said she had received multiple questions from media upon hearing about the incident. She handled it as she would have “any other news of the day,” she said.
The owner of the Red Hen restaurant told the Washington Post she asked Sanders to leave after determining the restaurant’s staff was uncomfortable with her presence, adding, “I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty and compassion, and cooperation.”
Sanders, in turn, tweeted that she had left politely, and always does her best “to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.” Regular watchers of her press briefings know that statement to be fact-challenged, Sanders having recently, as one for instance, told CNN’s Jim Acosta he was not smart enough to understand short sentences.
Dem politicians are not in agreement over the restaurant owners’ handling of the situation. Civil rights icon/Rep. Elijah Cummings, for instance, told CBS’ Sunday Beltway show Face the Nation he thinks Red Hen should have served Sanders.
Waters, as Sanders noted, encouraged her supporters to harass Trump administration officials, telling a crowd, “If you see anybody from that cabinet, in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome any more, anywhere.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer condemned Waters’ actions, without naming her, on the floor of the Senate this afternoon.
“If you disagree with someone or something, stand up, make your voice heard. Explain why you think they’re wrong, and why you’re right. Make the argument. Protest peacefully,” he said. “But no one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right. That’s not American.”
Trump, meanwhile, responded to Waters with a threat: