After White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant this weekend, Trump supporters have been wrongly targeting and harassing unrelated but similarly named eateries around the country.
On Friday evening, the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia, asked Sanders to leave the restaurant after consulting with staff who felt uncomfortable with the chief White House spokeswoman’s presence. As a result, both Sanders and President Trump took to Twitter to directly shame the restaurant and ultimately stir up an outrage movement against it.
As a result, similarly named but completely unaffiliated Red Hen restaurants in Washington, D.C., Connecticut, and New Jersey have reportedly been the targets of harassment, death threats, and even some physical violence.
The Red Hen in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, “received threatening messages on its voicemail and on its Facebook page,” soon after the Sanders incident, WTNH reported. The restaurant reportedly changed its voicemail to explain that they were “not affiliated with any other Red Hen restaurant,” and, in response to hundreds of angry comments, posted to Facebook multiple notes declaring, “We have absolutely no affiliation with any other Red Hen Restaurant anywhere else.”
Additionally, a Red Hen restaurant in Swedesboro, New Jersey has also been targeted for harassment by phone, social media, and a flood of negative Yelp reviews. The restaurant wrote, in all caps, that their restaurant was “IS IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH THE RED HEN IN VIRGINIA” on their Facebook page, and claimed they received about 600 phone calls related to the incident.
“I was answering the phone every five minutes to swearing, cursing, vile things—people wishing our business would go under,” restaurant host Tommy Smith told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Their anger was really overpowering. It really stinks.”
Their Yelp page seems to have received so many Sanders-related angry reviews that Yelp’s corporate team performed a “clean up” of reviews to “remove both positive and negative posts that appear to be motivated more by the news coverage itself than the reviewer’s personal consumer experience with the business.” The same Yelp intervention occurred for the Old Saybrook Red Hen’s page.
Meanwhile, the Red Hen in D.C. has been bearing the brunt of the misdirected backlash, despite the actual Red Hen in Lexington being three hours away. Co-owner Mike Friedman told the Washingtonian that they’ve been “bombarded” with calls, emails, tweets, and negative Yelp reviews in the immediate fallout.
They’ve also reportedly received death threats. Furthermore, the eatery was egged over the weekend, presumably by confused Trump supporters looking for vengeance against the Lexington cafe.
The D.C. Red Hen has, however, taken the disarray in stride, taking to Twitter to defend themselves and make light of the situation—often responding to angry and confused Trump supporters with witty remarks and funny reaction GIFs.
Even after being proven wrong, many of the pro-Trump trolls continue to insist the D.C. Red Hen denounce the actions of the Lexington restaurant coincidentally named the same. While the capital joint finds it a silly exercise to denounce another restaurant they have nothing to do with, they did clarify that—by law—they “serve everybody.”
But the message doesn’t seem to have seeped through. And so the outrage machine rolls along.