Stephanie Wilkinson, the co-owner of the tiny Red Hen restaurant in the small town of Lexington, Va., stands by her decision to tell Sarah Huckabee Sanders she wasn't welcome in her restaurant.
Wilkinson told The Washington Post that her decision to ask the White House Press Secretary to leave on Friday night stemmed from her gay employees; many were upset by Sanders's defense for the administration's ban on transgender servicemembers (currently tied up in the courts). Sanders also recently praised a Supreme Court ruling that sided with an antigay baker who refused service to a gay couple and said the president was OK with businesses posting signs that said LGBT people weren't welcome. Sanders also stood by while her boss separated migrants from their children at the southern border.
“Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave,” Wilkinson told her staff, according to the Post. “They said ‘yes.’ ”
Wilkinson drove to her restaurant after being alerted that Sanders entered the restaurant with her husband and a group of other adults. The party had been served drinks and cheese boards by the time Wilkinson asked the press secretary if she could have a word with her outside the dining room.
The restaurant owner described stammering as she spoke to Sanders, but telling her that the restaurant operated with standards of "honest, compassion, and cooperation"; words that don't comport with Sanders's job performance. Wilkinson admits Sanders quickly agreed to leave and her party quietly departed.
Still, Sanders later sent a tweet out from her official account that named and shamed the restaurant, helping to contribute to thousands of negative restaurant reviews for the Red Hen.
Operating in a Virginia county that voted for Trump, Wilkinson knew her decision would not be universally loved. But, "This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals."