(SKY NEWS) – Donald Trump has criticised a Virginia restaurant after staff refused to serve his press secretary.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington on Saturday night because she worked for the US president.
Mr Trump, who regularly uses Twitter to express his opinions, hit back at the venue on Monday, calling it “filthy” and “dirty”.
He wrote: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!”
On its website, the business is described as a “farm-to-table” restaurant which every day creates “a new menu based on the freshest and tastiest produce and meat, whether it is a ribeye steak from cattle raised by the Potter family, who have been farming in nearby Collierstown for seven generations, or a beet risotto using vegetables from Rancho Calixto, a family farm founded by immigrants from Mexico”.
Ms Sanders told her three million Twitter followers at the weekend that she had “politely left” the restaurant, adding: “The owner’s) 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.”
Stephanie Wilkinson, co-owner of the 26-seat restaurant, told The Washington Post she consulted her staff before they agreed to ask Ms Sanders to leave.
She said several of her staff are gay and had seen Ms Sanders defend Mr Trump’s efforts to exclude transgender people from the military – and more recently watched her defend the president’s controversial immigration policy.
The restaurant has a 4.5/5 rating on Tripadvisor – but the review website said it has temporarily suspended publishing new comments for the listing “due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a first-hand experience”.
Mr Trump’s remarks on social media attracted criticism with some Twitter users questioning the “ethics” of his comments on the issue.
Walter Shaub, the government’s ethics chief under Barack Obama and briefly Mr Trump and now a fierce critic of his administration, suggested Mr Trump’s “Red Hen rant” was in violation of US law.
Responding to Mr Trump’s tweet, Mr Shaub wrote: “One fine morning the president of a 330 million person country with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal decided the matter most needing his attention was the vengeful destruction of a rural eatery. Stealing babies and children made him hurt less, but the little things helped too.”
He added: “p.s. Trump’s Red Hen rant would also violate the misuse of position regulation, if he followed the tradition of trying to act as though it applied. But this walking conflict of interest has chosen to hold himself to a lower standard than the federal workforce he supervises.”
On Saturday, he said Ms Sanders’ tweet about her treatment broke federal rules.
Tweeting her directly in response to her post, Mr Shaub wrote: “Sarah, I know you don’t care even a tiny little bit about the ethics rules, but using your official account for this is a clear violation of 5 CFR 2635.702(a). It’s the same as if an ATF agent pulled out his badge when a restaurant tried to throw him/her out.”
He added later: “Sanders used her official govt account to condemn a private business for personal reasons … she can lob attacks on her own time but not using her official position.”