The co-owner of the infamous Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, is speaking out a year after she asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to surrender her place in the restaurant and leave.
Stephanie Wilkinson, co-owner of the eatery, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post in which she complains about the backlash she received as a result of asking Sanders and company to leave the restaurant, and insists business is booming.
In June 2018, Wilkinson asked Sanders and her party to leave the premises over a “moral conviction” and an apparent anti-Trump bias.
A day after the incident, Sanders tweeted, “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.”
What’s the woman saying now?
In an essay published on Tuesday, Wilkinson said that she received bulk deliveries of hate mail, threatening phone calls, and harassment over her decision to eject Sanders over political views.
She noted that the mail and the harassment over the incident has continued for a year.
When she kicked Sanders out, Wilkinson wrote, “the country was in turmoil over the Trump administration’s heinous practice of separating children from their parents at our southern border.
“In our tiny 26-seat restaurant, the horror felt simultaneously immediate and far away,” she incoherently wrote. “Faced with the prospect of serving a fine meal to a person whose actions in the service of our country we felt violated basic standards of humanity, we balked. We couldn’t do it.”
Wilkinson explained that she took Sanders aside and politely told her to leave. Sanders politely acquiesced and left.
“She never showed any sign of outrage, or even much surprise,” Wilkinson said. “We’d drawn a line; she’d accepted it.”
Wilkinson went on to blame social media for the ensuing outrage that bubbled up and apparently resulted in nearly a year of harassment.
“Within 24 hours, the restaurant’s phone line was hacked, my staff and I were doxxed, and threats to our lives and families and property were pouring in through every available channel,” she revealed. “Protesters colonized the streets around the restaurant. Thousands of fake Yelp reviews torpedoed our ratings, and dozens of people attempted to lock up our tables with reservations they had no intention of honoring.”
That wasn’t all, apparently.
Wilkinson said that even the media were attempting to cause division by presenting “red restaurants” as well as “blue restaurants.”
“How likely was it, really, that the guy texting me from a Minneapolis area code was really going to come to town to set fire to our restaurant?” she wrote. “It felt impossible to know.”
Wilkinson explained that the bags of mail turned into plastic totes that would show up at her door and crowd her living room.
“Yet, as I kept opening the letters, I saw a pattern,” she wrote. “For every hateful message, there was one of gratitude. For every angry accusation that our actions were driven by the inability to accept Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss, there was a note of thanks from someone lamenting Trump’s rollback of protections for marginalized people.”
Wilkinson insisted that after she reopened the restaurant after closing for a few days following the incident, supporters filled the restaurant to capacity.
“After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually,” she boasted. “To everyone who might be fearful about taking a stand, I say don’t be. Resistance is not futile, for you or your business.”