The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia placed itself at the epicenter of the nation’s political divide after its owner asked President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to leave the restaurant while she was dining with family members. You can see some of the memes, jokes, and GIFs that have erupted on social media as a result of the controversy.
The restaurant’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, explained to the Washington Post that the chef called her and asked what to do because Huckabee Sanders was dining on a cheese plate in the farm-to-table restaurant.
The county where the restaurant is located voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential election but tiny Lexington, which has only 7,000 people, did not, according to The Post, which quoted Wilkinson as saying Sanders works in an “inhumane and unethical” administration. “This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals,” she told The Post.
However, Trump supporters vowed that the restaurant would see fewer customers as a result.
The memes, jokes, and GIFs flew on both sides.
Here’s what you need to know:
Huckabee Sanders & Her Father Exposed the Incident on Social Media But the Jokes Flew in Both Directions
The press secretary and her father, the former governor of Arkansas turned conservative pundit, both exposed the restaurant’s decision on Twitter. Sarah Sanders wrote, “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 tweet has more than 148,000 likes and 45,000 retweets. In addition, Mike Huckabee, Sarah’s father, tweeted about the incident too. He wrote in response to a supportive tweet from Franklin Graham, “Thanks, Franklin. You’re right about @PressSec. She IS a nice lady. Of course I’m as objective about her as the media is about @realDonaldTrump.”
“Bigotry. On the menu at Red Hen Restaurant in Lexington VA. Or you can ask for the ‘Hate Plate’. And appetizers are ‘small plates for small minds,'” wrote Mike Huckabee on Twitter.
Yelp has announced it is deleting reviews both for and against the restaurant that resulted solely from news coverage. This photo was widely turned into a meme:
Both sides accused the other of hypocrisy over the gay wedding cake debate, with some saying the two scenarios have key differences.
The Comment Thread on the Restaurant’s Facebook Page Has Filled With Angry & Supportive Comments
Angry comments filled the restaurant’s Facebook page, with people insisting they would never eat there again, would make reservations and then not show up, and generally chastising Wilkinson and the restaurant for turning a person away for their political beliefs. Some supporters also took to the threads to thank the restaurant and Wilkinson for the decision.
Wilkinson told The Washington Post that she “would have done the same thing again.” On Facebook, the Red Hen Lexington defines itself as an “American restaurant” and “new American restaurant.”
The top post on Facebook, which is about Coq au Vin, now has more than 20,000 comments posted underneath it.
One person wrote, “I’d like to speak to a representative about booking an event for our annual Friends of the NRA luncheon.”
Another opined, “Red Hen, can you guys send job applications to Kathy Griffin, Peter Fonda and Stormy Daniels. I see a great fit for your restaurant.”
A woman wrote, “Wow, refuse service to someone because of where or who they work for, that‘s just wrong on every level.”
However, a Red Hen supporter wrote, “The owner did the right thing last night. She took a stand that should have been taken by Republicans long ago. More of our country is for you than against you Best hire more staff. I think you’ll be busier than ever now. Thanks for the courage to take a stand.”
A restaurant in Washington D.C. that is also called the Red Hen took to Twitter to explain that it wasn’t the controversial restaurant in question. “Good morning! @PressSec went to the unaffiliated @RedHenLex last night, not to our DC-based restaurant,” the Twitter page read.