Sarah Huckabee Sanders wasn’t too happy about being thrown out of a Virginia restaurant, but the protests from the White House Press Secretary could end up getting her in some legal hot water.
On Friday, Sanders was thrown out of the Red Hen restaurant after the co-owner decided not to serve the Trump administration official. She took to Twitter to protest, and former White House ethics director Walter Schaub says Sanders may have violated the law in doing so.
Schaub noted that Sarah Huckabee Sanders used her official government Twitter account to condemn the restaurant, a private business. He noted that this action “seeks to coerce business by using her office to get public to pressure it,” which he said is also a violation of the endorsements ban and ethics laws as well.
Schaub was the former director of the Office of Government Ethics but resigned to join the Campaign Legal Center and become a CNN analyst.
As the Washington Post noted, Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the restaurant after co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson got a call that Sanders had shown up to dine at her farm-to-table restaurant. The eatery is in the tiny town of Lexington, which the report noted is a very anti-Trump area of an otherwise Republican county.
Sanders used her official govt account to condemn a private business for personal reasons. Seeks to coerce business by using her office to get public to pressure it. Violates endorsements ban too, which has an obvious corollary for discouraging patronage. Misuse reg covers both.
— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 23, 2018
Wilkinson said she drove from her home to the restaurant and decided to throw out Sanders and her party. The co-owner noted that several of the restaurant’s employees are gay, and that Sanders had defended Trump’s anti-LGBT policies, including a ban on transgender military members. She was also aghast at Sanders’ defense of Trump’s policy to separate immigrant children from their parents.
It is not clear if Sarah Huckabee Sanders could face any circumstances for her tweet condemning the Red Hen restaurant. Other members of Donald Trump’s administration have seen light consequences for violations of ethical standards, including top adviser Kellyanne Conway, who was found to have violated the federal Hatch Act by using her office to advocate for and against candidates in the Alabama special Senate election.
Hey @PressSec, BEING KICKED OUT OF A RESTAURANT for helping Trump spread hate & lies & kidnap & imprison innocent kids & overthrow our democracy is not nearly as bad as BEING DENIED A WEDDING CAKE because of the way you were born & who you love.
— Todd Matson (@twmentality1) June 23, 2018
As CNN noted, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel found that Conway was in violation of the Hatch Act. The Office of Governmental Ethics, which at the time was led by Walter Schaub, spoke out against Conway’s statements as well. It was not clear what punishment Conway faced, if any, from the White House for the violation.
The Red Hen restaurant’s decision to kick out Sarah Huckabee Sanders has also led to a backlash online, with many people sharing poor reviews. Supporters of the restaurant’s decision have counteracted that with good reviews.