Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders have both used their official Twitter accounts previously to attack businesses with which they have private grievances. However, they’ve typically gone after big companies, with a specific preference for Amazon. Now the two are teaming up to repeat this ethics violation in an attack on a small restaurant in Virginia. Both have now tweeted about Sanders being refused service at the restaurant, and the result is a series of attacks on the small business — and other unrelated businesses of the same name.
On Friday night, Sarah Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant, the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, after the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, polled staff and came to a conclusion that, because of her actions in the Trump administration, employees wouldn’t feel safe or comfortable serving her. They cited concerns over her defense of banning transgender individuals in the military, and prevaricating over the separation of immigrant children from their parents, Washington Post reports.
While Sanders may have left politely, she then set the restaurant up for attacks, tweeting not to the thousands of people who follow her personal Twitter account, but to the millions who follow her official account as Press Secretary.
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. 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
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) June 23, 2018
Walter Shaub, a former director of the Office of Government Ethics, responded, warning that this is a violation of ethics rules.
Sarah, I know you don’t care even a tiny little bit about the ethics rules, but using your official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a). It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out. https://t.co/Fj6OfBAdew
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2018
He later tweeted to add that it isn’t a firing offense, and would probably only result in counseling the first time, at least, if ethics rules were actually enforced in this administration. (It’s not the first time though — Sanders previously used her official account to attack Amazon over an accidental purchase.)
On Monday morning, the administration doubled down on the ethics violations, with Donald Trump joining in to use his Twitter account, which he uses for official White House business, to also attack the restaurant, calling it dirty and in need of a paint job.
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. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 25, 2018
The attacks on the small business are already in full force. The website appears to have been hacked, with text edits making references to sexual dysfunction (though at this time it appears to have been repaired), online reviews have been brigaded, and there are calls to protest at the establishment.
Let’s MARCH ON THE RED HEN TONIGHT! Bring your bull horns and motor cycles and let’s make sure they hear us loud and clear tonight, tomorrow night and every night until they apologize to Sarah and President Trump!
The reckless attempts at retaliation from the administration have also harmed at least one business completely unaffiliated with the restaurant against which it was aimed.
A restaurant in DC, with no connection to the Red Hen in Lexington other than, by complete coincidence, the same name, has been under social media attack by Trump and Sanders supporters who are angry enough to try to destroy a business, but not rational enough to be concerned about whether DC and Lexington are the same place.
— The Red Hen (@RedHenDC) June 23, 2018
It’s strange behavior from an administration that claims to support small business. Will anyone hold Donald Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders accountable?