Stephanie Wilkinson owns a small restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. She was summoned to the Red Hen from home last Friday night after getting a call from the chef. The staff thought that Sara Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, had just sat down with four or five other people. They didn’t know what to do. Wilkinson drove over.
When Wilkinson walked in, she was happy to see that the staff had been sensible enough to take orders and begin service. She eyeballed the dinner party and then caucused with the staff in the kitchen. Wilkinson asked the staff what they wanted her to do. One person mentioned Trump trying to keep transgender people out of the military. Another talked about Trump’s terrible detention and separation policy and that Sanders lies for the administration.
Wilkinson reflected that several people on the staff are gay and that Lexington was a tiny blue speck in a big, red field. She walked back into the dining room, introduced herself and asked Sanders out to talk on the patio.
Sanders is a steely professional. Her jousting with the press corps is a running story. Unflappable and prepared, she is just what her talkative boss wants. As the detention policy entered its second week, the reporters were getting personal with her, trying to break her rigid stand in support of the President’s despicable policy, one which he reversed unhappily last week before dinner.
Press secretaries normally are measured by their performance in answering tough questions. They prepare for a daily briefing by being ready to advance their boss’s cause on the day’s hot issue.
“I explained that the restaurant has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.”
Earlier last week, Sanders dodged a lot of questions and echoed her boss’s statements.
“That’s fine. I’ll go,” said Sanders.
A couple of weeks,ago, in a lawsuit about a religious baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a gay couple, the Supreme Court avoided deciding how to square the baker’s beliefs with the couples’ civil rights.
The Red Hen Affair is different. No one’s constitutional rights were violated by Wilkinson refusing service. The guests were asked to leave because Sanders is an effective mouthpiece for the administration’s cruelty and insensitivity.
I disagree with the White House policies, and I disagree with Wilkinson. She should have served her guests, as she would expect to be served. In fact, it’s a shame that Wilkinson didn’t let them stay. It could’ve been the beginning of a beautiful friendship.