Several restaurants named the Red Hen said they were harassed over the weekend after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked on Friday to leave an unrelated Lexington, Virginia, eatery of the same name.
Stephanie Wilkinson, who owns the restaurant where Sanders tried to dine, told The Washington Post that she asked the press secretary to leave because several of her staffers are gay and were concerned about servingSanders, who has defended an administration that has supported anti-LGBTQ policies.
The incident has sparked backlash, and hundreds of people have contacted the restaurant or posted on its social media pages to express their feelings.
Though Sanders’ tweet about the incident specified that the restaurant she had visited is in Lexington, President Donald Trump added to the confusion on Monday when he slammed the Red Hen on Twitter without identifying which Red Hen restaurant he was referring to.
Red Hen is not a chain restaurant, and at least four unaffiliated restaurants with the same name have been subject to critical comments on their social media and Yelp pages, as well as harassing calls.
Michael Friedman, a co-owner of the Red Hen in Washington, D.C., told The Washingtonian that his restaurant has received mistaken calls, emails, Yelp reviews and even death threats because of the confusion. He added that someone egged the restaurant over the weekend.
The D.C. restaurant posted on Facebook to clarify that Sanders did not try to eat at its establishment on Friday.
The Red Hen Restaurant in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, 525 miles from Lexington, was caught in the mix-up. It also issued a post on Facebook to deter people from calling about the Sanders incident. The restaurant’s answering machine said, “We are not affiliated with any other Red Hen restaurant.”
In Swedesboro, New Jersey, another restaurant that shares the name asked the public to “check your facts before you erroneously defame an innocent business.” The restaurant told HuffPost that it has received thousands of calls that have included cursing and death threats.
The confusion was not limited to the U.S. The Olde Red Hen restaurant in Ontario, Canada, has seen its Facebook page bombarded with furious comments and negative reviews. The owner, Diane Smith, told CTV News that she was initially confused about the flurry of activity.
“They were all Americans. We had to straighten it out,” Smith told the outlet.
Sanders is not the only Trump official whose dinner plans have been interrupted recently. Protesters confronted Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at a Mexican restaurant last week about her role in Trump’s zero tolerance immigration policy. White House adviser Stephen Miller was reportedly heckled while dining at a D.C. Mexican restaurant last week too.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) predicted that public figures would continue to be criticized in public as long as they supported Trump’s policies.
Those who defend him are “not going to be able to go to a restaurant, stop at a gas station, shop at a department store,” she said. “The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them until they decide that they’re going to tell the president, ‘No ... this is wrong, this is unconscionable. We can’t keep doing this to children.’”
This article has been updated to include The Olde Red Hen restaurant.