Sarah Sanders' restaurant encounter kicks off debate about confronting Trump allies

WASHINGTON -- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denounced threats made against her and other Trump officials on Monday as members of both parties criticized a Virginia restaurant's decision to kick her out.

Sanders was at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington on Friday when the owner approached and asked Sanders to leave. The owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, avoided reporters Monday, and her restaurant was closed as scheduled. But she told the Washington Post she believes Sanders works for an "inhumane and unethical" administration.

Sanders isn't the only Trump aide or ally to face critics in recent days. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was heckled at a movie theater in Tampa on Friday. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had to leave a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C., last week as hecklers protested the administration's immigration policy. Critics also rallied outside her Virginia home.

Trump

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders points as she fields questions from members of the media during the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Monday, June 25, 2018.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

Anger and confrontation is nothing new in American politics. Both were hallmarks of President Trump's 2016 campaign, in which he taunted opponents and encouraged violence during rallies. Back then, prominent Democrats urged restraint.

"Out motto is, when they go low, we go high," said former first lady Michelle Obama.

But over the weekend, California Rep. Maxine Waters urged fellow Democrats to keep it up.

"If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them," Waters said.

Other Democrats disagreed.

"I did not find that helpful, and I think a lot of people want to maintain that focus on pocketbook issues," said Sen. Brian Schatz.

Mr. Trump of course weighed in on Twitter, criticizing the Red Hen's cleanliness and curb appeal but also singling out Waters.