There’s a new battleground in the proxy war between MAGA hat-wearing Trump supporters and pussy hat-wearing members of the #Resistance, and it’s the Yelp page of a restaurant in Virginia that asked White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave.
The Hill pointed out The Red Hen, a farm-to-table restaurant in Lexington, Virginia, has racked up tons of one-star reviews in the last 24 hours after a server posted on Facebook saying the owner asked Sanders to leave. The barrage of negative feedback was quickly countered by five-star reviews posted by people who applauded the owner’s decision.
The whole mess started when a Red Hen employee took to Facebook to comment that Sanders showed up at the restaurant. “I just served Sarah huckabee sanders for a total of 2 minutes before my owner kicked her out along with 7 of her other family members,” he initially wrote.
The employee has since walked back the language of the post. It now says that the owner “asked her to leave and she complied.” In his status, the employee wrote that Sanders and her family “left on their own accord” after being asked. “We didn’t actually refuse service or ‘kick her out,’” he wrote.
That distinction appears to fall in line with the same story that the Red Hen owner Stephanie Wilkinson gave to the Washington Post. In recounting the events, Wilkinson said she received a call from a chef working at the restaurant informing her that Sanders was there. By the time she arrived, Sanders’ table had already been served. Wilkinson gathered her staff and said, “Tell me what you want me to do. I can ask her to leave.” She told WaPo, “They said yes.”
According to her account of the situation, Wilkinson asked Sanders to speak to her on the patio, at which point she told the press secretary her restaurant “has certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion, and cooperation.” She then asked Sanders to leave, and Sanders complied.
Sanders, for her part, fired off a tweet Saturday morning that more or less confirmed the story and positioned herself as the better person, as she is wont to do. “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,” she wrote. “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.”
If that all sounds like essentially a non-story to you, well, the internet mob strongly disagrees. Once the story started circulating, angry Trump supporters started pouring one-star reviews on the Red Hen’s Yelp page. As you might imagine, there were plenty of accusations of being unpatriotic and un-American throughout, along with promises to never eat at the restaurant from people thousands of miles away from it. The reviews also contained plenty of calls for new laws to prevent businesses from refusing service based on ideology from the same people who celebrated a baker not having to make a cake for a gay couple.
Instead of just letting the Trump supporters work out their aggression on their keyboard by posting pointless reviews that will inevitably be removed, folks that oppose the Trump administration decided to get in on the action too by posting five-star reviews to counter the negative brigading.
The entire endeavor is as fruitless as you’d expect. As of Saturday afternoon, the Red Hen’s page is being monitored by Yelp’s support team and the fake reviews from both sides will likely be dumped. The groups appear to have worked themselves to a stalemate anyway, as the restaurant currently has a 2.5 star rating with over 7,200 reviews. Great work, everyone.