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'Needs a paint job': Trump blasts Virginia restaurant for asking Sarah Sanders to leave

Dylan Stableford
Senior Editor

President Trump weighed in Monday on the story that dominated America’s social media feeds over the weekend: White House press secretary Sarah Sanders being asked to leave a small restaurant in rural Virginia because its staff disagreed with her defense of the administration’s policies.

And the commander in chief used the bully pulpit of the presidency to disparage the restaurant’s appearance.

“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. “I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., was cited with more than 90 violations by state health inspectors, including 15 last January, according to Fox News.

Sanders was dining with her husband in a group of about eight people at the Red Hen, a 26-seat farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Va., on Friday night. Its owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, told the Washington Post that Sanders’s party had been seated when the waitstaff called her at home to say they were uncomfortable and wanted her to leave.

“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson told the newspaper, but added: “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.”

Wilkinson went to the restaurant and pulled Sanders aside.

The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Va.; inset, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and President Trump. (Photos: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP, Daniel Lin/AP, T.J. Kirkpatrick/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation,” Wilkinson said. “I said, ‘I’d like to ask you to leave.’”

Sanders agreed, and she and her party left without incident. “They offered to pay,” Wilkinson said. “I said, ‘No. It’s on the house.’”

One of the restaurant’s servers relayed the story of Sanders being refused service on Facebook late Friday night. And the press secretary tweeted about the encounter the next day.

“Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left,” Sanders wrote from her official government account, which has more than 3 million followers. “Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

Related: Civility alert: Can’t we all just get along, or even get dinner?

Sanders wasn’t the only White House official to be confronted while dining out last week. On Tuesday night, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled by protesters at a Washington, D.C., Mexican restaurant. Stephen Miller, White House adviser and one of the architects of Trump’s immigration policies, was reportedly called a “fascist” by a protester at a different D.C. Mexican restaurant two days before.

At a demonstration against the Trump administration’s immigration policies in Los Angeles on Saturday, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., told protesters to keep up the public confrontations.

“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,” Waters said. “And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

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