On Friday night, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders stopped for dinner at the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia. However, several restaurant staffers were very uncomfortable with Sanders’ presence.
Many of them were gay, and felt chagrin that Sanders not only supported Donald Trump’s attempt to ban transgender people from the military. Other staffers were outraged at Sanders’ defense of Trump’s policy of separating migrant families. The chef called restaurant owner Stephanie Wilkinson for help. Wilkinson arrived, and after a short conversation asked Sanders to leave. Sanders immediately grabbed her things and left.
For most of the last few days, coverage of this incident has focused on whether Wilkinson’s decision to kick Sanders out represented another case of a decline in civil discourse. But what you may not know is that the Red Hen has been the target of a full-blown campaign of harassment and trolling.
Media Matters’ Cristina Lopez noticed that as early as Saturday morning, users on Voat, a social news site similar to Reddit, were posting Wilkerson’s home address and phone number, as well as those of the Red Hen’s chefs. Users on 4chan also joined in on the doxxing.
It came as no surprise that Voat and 4chan users were in on this. 4chan is one of the most notorious troll havens on the Internet. Voat has also become a troll haven, particularly after Reddit began cracking down on the harassment and trolling that made it infamous.
But users on Facebook and Twitter also joined in on it, even though both platforms are far less tolerant of doxxing and harassment. On Twitter, for instance, one user posted the numbers of Wilkinson and the restaurant’s other part-owner, John Godwin. At least one pro-Trump Facebook page also posted Wilkinson’s number. Other restaurants named “Red Hen” have also been targeted, even though they’re not related to the Lexington Red Hen.
But that’s not all. Buzzfeed tech writer Charlie Warzel noticed that the bottom-feeders are already trying to tie the restaurant to one of the deplorables’ favorite conspiracy theories.
The original tweet amplified a common theme that has exploded across the deplorable tubes–the restaurant must be part and parcel of Pizzagate, the supposed pedophilia ring involving prominent Democrats and celebrities.
Notice the “#qanon” hashtag in the tweet Warzel screenshotted? It refers to “QAnon,” who is supposedly a senior Trump administration official dribbling out information of a planned crackdown on pedophiles. So now these bottom-feeders may be libeling an innocent man–all because the restaurant he supposedly owns dared to turn away Sanders.
Lopez was also quick to notice the parallels with Pizzagate. After all, the far-right’s ceaseless promotion of this nonsense resulted in a deranged nut bursting into the supposed headquarters of the ring, the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, to rescue the kids supposedly being molested there. She also noted the parallels with how Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg has been relentlessly harassed and trolled for most of the spring, culminating in him being swatted just 24 hours after he graduated.
Apparently the deplorables have a ready explanation in case something similar happens to Wilkerson’s restaurant. InfoWars’ Alex Jones told his followers on Monday that liberals are angling to launch a “false flag” attack on Wilkerson’s restaurant–and blame it on conservatives. People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch got a clip.
You can quibble about whether Wilkerson went too far in kicking Sanders out. But the response from the right-wing fringe proves why they deserve the term “deplorable.”
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