The White House press secretary, who has received widespread criticism in the past for defending the president’s lies, tweeted on Saturday about the alleged incident — which appears to be yet another example of sharply divided times in the U.S.
“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, 35, wrote. “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.”
Sanders’ tweet came weeks after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a bakery owner who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, a verdict many conservatives praised.
Calls to the farm-to-table restaurant to verify Sanders’ claims by PEOPLE went straight to a voicemail box. Still, the Ren Hen’s Yelp and Facebook pages were flooded with posts in support of Sanders, with many calling the establishment’s owners “bigots.”
“Are Republicans welcome in this restaurant or just not ones that work for the current administration?” one Yelp user asked. “I wouldn’t want to be asked to leave, so I would like to choose restaurants based on whether I would be able to have a decent experience.”
“After their latest shenanigans, I will never step foot in The Ren Hen,” one woman wrote on their Facebook page. “Totally discrimination against conservatives..but I guess discrimination is only one sided these days.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sanders’ father, also blasted the owners. “Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA,” Huckabee tweeted. “Or you can ask for the ‘Hate Plate.’ And appetizers are ‘small plates for small minds.’ ”
Others, meanwhile, came to the Red Hen’s defense.
“Personally, I prefer NOT having to dine with liars, racists or fascists,” wrote another Yelp user. “But that’s just me.”
“If I ever go to Lexington, Va, I will make sure to dine at The Red Hen,” wrote a Twitter user. “Any restaurant willing to take a stand against the lying Bigly mouthpiece is great in my book. Your actions have consequences, Sarah. Deal with it.”
Acclaimed director Ava Duvernay also showed that she was going to be supporting the restaurant: “Takes out pen, takes out paper, adds Red Hen to list of preferred restaurants in my best handwriting, with hearts,” she tweeted.
Sanders was promoted to White House press secretary following the July 2017 resignation of Sean Spicer. She previously served as deputy press secretary.
She’s been slammed this week by White House press reporters, who have noted that she’s left them four days straight in a row without doing a briefing, even amid the migrant children crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the Trump administration’s since-reversed “zero-tolerance” policy for illegal entry into the U.S. that has separated families.
Another Trump administration official, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, had an incident in a D.C.-area eatery on Tuesday when a group of protesters ambushed her over the processing detention centers her office runs.
Protestors from the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America asked Nielsen questions — including “How do you sleep at night?” and “Do you hear the babies crying?” — as she dined with a colleague at MXDC Cocina Mexicana.
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Meanwhile, earlier this month, Sanders pushed back against a new report that claimed she is planning to leave her position before the end of the year.
According to a story posted by CBS News, White House sources told the outlet that both Sanders and principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah are expected to depart the administration. CBS News reported that Sanders told friends she would step down by year’s end.
In response, Sanders wrote on Twitter, “Does @CBSNews know something I don’t about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter’s year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my ‘plans to leave the WH’ without even talking to me.”
She continued, “I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS.”