Recently we discussed the disturbing protest carried out at the MXDC restaurant against Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Members of Congress like Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Cal.) defended the protesters in disrupting the restaurant and forcing Nielsen to leave. It was a sad statement on the utter loss of any sense of civility in our current political discourse. Now, the owner of the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia is at the center of this debate after throwing out White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and her family from breakfast. Many liberals celebrated the rude denial of service by the owners while conservatives have directed their anger at the restaurant. Much of the criticism has been misdirected against the Red Hen in D.C. which has gone to pains to point out that they are not associated with the Lexington Red Hen. Many critics on Yelp and other sites have unleashed on the restaurant. The co-owner responsible for the decision was Stephanie Wilkinson. Wilkinson founded the restaurant with John Blackburn, who reportedly named the restaurant after his favorite childhood story. Wilkinson is reportedly the founder and publisher of Brain, Child magazine. She lists herself as a co-owner of the restaurant. UPDATE: Wilkinson says that she is proud of her actions and would do it again.
Friday night, Jaike Foley-Schultz, a waiter at The Red Hen, posted on Facebook that “I just served Sarah huckabee sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members…”
Sanders confirmed that “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.”
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
The website for Main Street Lexington states:
“Main Street Lexington exists to enhance the economic prosperity and cultural vitality of our community, re-establishing downtown Lexington as the vibrant economic and cultural nexus of our area while maintaining its unique character.”
It is a curious approach for either economic development or managing a restaurant to tell conservatives that they are not welcomed. Lexington is an area with many conservatives as well as liberals. With marginal profits at many business, particularly restaurants, this inhospitable message for conservatives cannot be a good business plan.
I have been highly critical of Trump and his Administration. However, I find this action to be incredibly offensive and wrongheaded. I would feel that same if Rep. Speier were chased from a restaurant by a conservative owner. Once again, we seem to have lost any sense of restraint and civility in our politics. Extremists on both sides claim license to say and do most anything vis-a-vis their opponents. There is a sense of utter release in these actions — the right to act in the most monstrous or menacing ways because you believe that you are right and they are wrong. You can denounce Trump for petty and childish attacks and then engage in the very same conduct in response. And so it continues on and on and on. It is the impunity of action that comes with being right.
I would not go to the Red Hen any more than I would go to a restaurant that refused to serve Rep. Speier. It is simple matter of courtesy and civility.
Update: The original column correctly noted that “[p]revious stories identified the co-owners as John Blackburn and Stephanie Wilkinson” while noting that it was unclear who were the other co-owners of the restaurant at this time. It has since come out that Blackburn gave up his ownership a three or four years ago. The original story said that it appeared likely that it was Wilkinson who is referenced by Sanders and, when Wilkinson confirmed her role, the column was updated. While one of the two founders with Wilkinson (and the person who named the restaurant), Blackburn however gave up his interest in the Red Hen in 2014 and has complained that he is receiving considerable backlash from the story. That was obviously not our intention when we shared the information on the prior ownership information. He now appears to be in the unenviable position as the many other Red Hen restaurants receiving blowback after Wilkinson’s actions. As noted in the column, what was missing in the Wilkinson’s actions was civility and understanding. The same failure of judgment can be found in those who are attacking third parties like Blackburn. While the story would have still referenced Blackburn as a founder with Wilkinson, there was no intention to add to Blackburn’s burden in reporting what information we could find on the restaurant’s ownership history.