Was Sarah Sanders' Tweet About Red Hen An Ethics Violation? A Former Ethics Chief Thinks So
On June 23, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a restaurant due to her relationship with the Trump administration. Well, in typical 2018 fashion, Sanders shared the experience on her official government Twitter account and basically put the restaurant on blast — but a former White House employee notes that this might not have been the best plan of attack. So, was Sarah Sanders' tweet about Red Hen an ethics violation? It looks like that might be the case, according to one expert.
On June 23, Sarah Huckabee Sanders dined at Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, but was asked by the owner to leave the establishment. In response, Sanders took to Twitter to not only let the public know what happened, but called the establishment out by name. Even though this is typical behavior from the Trump administration, former White House director of the United States Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, revealed via Twitter that he believes Sanders might have broken the law by tweeting about the restaurant owner on her official government Twitter @PressSec account.
Sanders used her official govt account to condemn a private business for personal reasons. Seeks to coerce business by using her office to get public to pressure it. Violates endorsements ban too, which has an obvious corollary for discouraging patronage. Misuse reg covers both.
Even though a complaining tweet from Donald Trump is a day-to-day occurrence, the reason why Sanders' tweet might be illegal is because she used her official White House title to publicly criticize a private business owner due to a personal experience. Shaub went on to say that Sanders' tweet could be seen as "discouraging patronage" to a local, small business, which is forbidden under the federal law which prohibits using a public office for personal gain. In another tweet, Shaub notes the specific sections of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that speak about these ethical violations. According to Shaub, Sanders is allowed to speak against establishments on her personal time, but not through her official government position. Elite Daily reached out to Sanders and the White House for a comment about the allegations of a violation, but did not hear back in time for publication.
Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of Red Hen, spoke to The Washington Post on June 23 about her reason behind asking Sanders to leave. According to Wilkinson, several of her employees are members of the LGBTQ community and didn't feel comfortable serving Sanders due to the administration's stance on things like the transgender military ban and policy of separating migrant children from their families.
Sanders is just one of a few Trump officials who have had less than peaceful experiences while out to dinner in public recently. On June 17, Trump senior adviser and the brains behind the "zero tolerance" immigration plan, Stephen Miller, was attempting to enjoy dinner at Washington D.C.'s Mexican-inspired restaurant Espita Mezcaleria, but instead was continuously heckled by fellow diners. Plus, on June 19, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled by people while eating at a Mexican restaurant in Washington D.C. Videos surfaced of the incident, where fellow restaurant yelled to Nielsen, "If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!”
It's a safe bet that the recent public outcry against these Trump officials is in response to the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy and the separation of immigrant children from their families at the border. On June 20, Donald Trump signed an executive order that he says will stop this separation from happening. However, immediately after announcing the order, Twitter users pointed out that there had been no law prior that stated families had to be separated while crossing the border. During the signing, Trump spoke to reporters about the purpose behind this order, and said that it's meant to "keep families together" while also "having strong borders."
It's about keeping families together, while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful very strong border, and border security will be equal if not greater than previously. So we're going to have strong very strong borders, but we're going to keep the families together. I didn't like the sight or the feeling of families being separated. It's a problem that's gone on for many years, as you know, through many administrations. And we're working very hard on immigration, it's just been left out in the cold. People haven't dealt with it, and we are dealing with it.
On June 23, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also announced a plan to reunite separated families, but there's more than 2,000 children who are still in government custody after being separated, so there's clearly a long way to go.
Until the Trump administration really takes responsibility for the wellbeing of minority communities, they should probably expect many more public outcries such as these. In the meantime, let's hope that they keep their opinions to themselves, and off of their public Twitter accounts.