By JILL COLVIN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Monday trash-talked a Virginia restaurant that asked his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave because she worked for his administration.
In a tweet, Trump said that The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, “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.”
“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” added Trump, an admitted germophobe, who has said he prefers eating at fast food chains rather than independent eateries because he trusts them more.
Photographs of the restaurant, a three-hour drive from Washington, appear to show no evidence of serious disrepair to the red building with hunter green awnings and white doors and trim, though recent images show some awning wear.
The restaurant’s most recent health inspection, reported by the local news site Patch and available online, includes no record of violations. Inspectors noted “good food/unit temperatures,” said staff had clean uniforms and aprons, and observed “excellent job on code-dating.”
Sanders tweeted over the weekend that she was asked to leave the restaurant by its owner Friday evening because she worked for Trump’s Republican administration. Sanders said that she “politely left” and that the owner’s “actions say far more about her than about me.”
“Healthy debate on ideas and political philosophy is important,” she told reporters at a White House briefing. “But the calls for harassment and push for any Trump supporter to avoid the public is unacceptable.”
The restaurant’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Monday, but she told The Washington Post that her reasons for booting Sanders included the concerns of employees who were gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from serving in the military.
Several other Trump administration officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, have been confronted in public in recent days amid intense fury over an administration policy that led to an increase in the number of migrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border illegally.
Nielsen cut short a working dinner at a Mexican restaurant last week after protesters shouted, “Shame!” until she left. Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller was accosted by someone at a different Mexican restaurant who called him “a fascist,” according to the New York Post.
The displays of hostility have set off a fierce debate about whether politics should play a role in how administration officials are treated in public, with Sanders’ father, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, denouncing his daughter’s treatment as “bigotry.”
Sarah Huckabee Sanders added: “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.”
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville contributed to this report.