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Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the Question of ‘Tolerance’

The White House Press Secretary’s anecdote at a Virginia restaurant brings the phrase “zero tolerance” under a microscope

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders walks away from the podium after speaking to the media at the daily briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP/REX Shutterstock

Nothing Donald Trump has done in his 17 months as president has elicited as much disgust as his policy of dividing migrant families at the border. The separation of over 2,300 migrant children from their parents has led in recent weeks to real-life backlash against Trump administration officials. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Senior Adviser Stephen Miller were both heckled in Mexican restaurants. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was harassed about her immigration stance outside of a screening of the new Mr. Rogers documentary. As Trump entered Speaker Paul Ryan’s office last week, a congressional intern yelled, “Mister president, fuck you!”

The latest and most controversial example of in-the-wild resistance came on Friday, when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. The next day, Sanders used her official government Twitter account to attack the restaurant.

On Monday morning, the president criticized the restaurant’s dirty “canopies.” (Something to consider: In the past three years, Mar-a-Lago has been cited 78 times for health code violations.)

The protests have led the right to accuse the left of preaching but not practicing tolerance, a tactic that has been a fixture of the Trump era, especially in regard to the left’s objection to institutions giving public platforms to white nationalist figures.

But there is a key difference between the core of the right’s intolerance versus that of the left. It was laid bare by Sanders’ father the morning after she was asked to leave the Red Hen. The former governor (and presidential candidate) began his weekend with a racially charged tweet that has been criticized by several members of his own party.

Less than three hours later, he accused the Red Hen of “bigotry.”

On Monday morning, Huckabee the elder continued to criticize the restaurant. “I don’t understand rejecting the biz of ppl you disagree with,” he tweeted. “I want as much biz as I can get from libs–the $$ they spend w/ me in my various businesses lets me give more to my church, pro-life candidates, and causes that leftists hate. Empty your wallet and THANKS!”

The hypocrisy is hard to ignore. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ruled narrowly that a Colorado baker had the right to refuse service to a gay couple. Many of those on the right who are crying foul at the Red Hen cheered this ruling, and Huckabee has long supported the right to refuse service to same-sex couples. In 2015, he praised a pair of Oregon bakery owners as “heroes” for refusing to make a cake for a gay wedding. Part of the reason Sanders was refused service at the Red Hen was that some of the restaurant’s gay employees reportedly objected to the administration’s discrimination against transgender members of the military.

Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that the thousands of children whose forcible separation from their parents started this mess will ever be reunited with their parents.

In This Article: Donald Trump

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