White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders addressed being kicked out of a Virginia restaurant over the weekend during Monday’s press briefing.
“We are allowed to disagree, but we should be able to do so freely and without fear of harm,” Sanders said.
Sanders opened the briefing by talking about the restaurant incident and moved on to topics including immigration, Turkey and college baseball. In reference to the incident, Sanders said she was asked to leave the restaurant “because I work for President Trump.”
She also said that while a “healthy debate is important,” calls to harass Trump officials are “unacceptable.” Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) advocated at a Saturday rally in Los Angeles for Trump’s opponents to confront Cabinet members they encounter.
Later in Monday’s briefing, Sanders was asked why she tweeted about getting kicked out of the restaurant. The former head of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics tweeted Saturday that the press secretary may have broken ethics law in doing so from an official government account.
Sanders replied Monday that many reporters had reached out to her about the incident and that it had become “news of the day.” As such, she said, “I responded in the way I would to any other news story of the day.”
Sanders’ tweet on Saturday said she “was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS” and that she “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,” Sanders wrote.
The owner of the restaurant, Stephanie Wilkinson, told The Washington Post that her restaurant has “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation.”
“I would have done the same thing again. We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one,” Wilkinson told The Post.
President Donald Trump responded to the incident on Monday, calling the restaurant “filthy” and “dirty” for “refusing to serve a fine person” like his spokeswoman.
The controversy has only continued to gather steam, particularly after Waters’ Saturday comments in which she warned Trump officials that they “ain’t seen nothing yet.”
“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up,” Waters said at the LA rally. “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
Trump also responded to Waters’ rhetoric, calling her “an extraordinarily low IQ person” and claiming she supports “harm” to his supporters in a tweet. The president included a thinly veiled threat in his tweet with the line, “Be careful what you wish for Max!”
Members of both the Republican and the Democratic parties have spoken out against Waters’ words. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) tweeted, “More Civility and respect always prevails over harassment and disrespect.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor on Monday that he “strongly” disagrees “with those who advocate harassing folks who disagree with you.”
“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents,” he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated Sanders discussed college football in the briefing. She discussed college baseball.