Sarah Sanders

Oliver Contreras/SIPA USA

Unaffiliated Red Hen Restaurant In Conn. Receives Threats Over Sanders Debacle

June 25, 2018 - 2:45 pm

OLD SAYBROOK, Conn. (WCBS 880/AP) -- A Connecticut restaurant called the Red Hen has received angry calls ever since a Virginia restaurant by the same name refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Shelley DeProto is the owner of the Red Hen in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. Her restaurant is not affiliated with the Lexington, Virginia eatery that refused to serve Sanders, and the fact that they have the same name is a coincidence.

Yet, the phone has been “ringing off the hook” with angry calls, DeProto told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott.

“We have gotten a ton of voicemails, and our Facebook page has had quite a bit of activity – thousands of comments,” she said, “and social media has just been blowing up.”

DeProto said there has been a lot of “rage” in the comments directed at her restaurant, and some comments were even threatening in nature.

“‘Death to the Red Hen,’ ‘We’re coming to get you’ – you name it,” she said.

DeProto said some people are responsive when she explains her Red Hen restaurant is not the one that declined service to Sanders and is not affiliated with that restaurant. But some remain hostile regardless.

“They actually don’t hear you saying it, because they are so filled with rage and so ready to say what they have to say that nothing at that point, I think, can stop them. So when you explain it, no matter how many times or how loudly you explain it, they just don’t hear it,” she said. “They just keep going.”

Angry social media users have also damaged the Connecticut Red Hen restaurant’s reputation, DeProto said. The restaurant's Yelp rating dropped from 4.5 out of 5 to 2.

“Our Yelp rating, our TripAdvisor rating; there’s a rating on Facebook as well where you can review, and we went from four and a half stars to two, and we actually had to shut Facebook down for a period of time over the weekend,” she said, “so we’re trying as hard as we can to get the word out, but you know, it’s been very disturbing, because we definitely, I think, reached the point where freedom of speech has ended and the harassment has begun. It’s morphed into something different at this point.”

Scott asked DeProto if she or her staff feel unsafe when they exit the restaurant.

“I can say that there’s a lot of anger, but I think there are also a lot of miles between where this occurred and where these phone calls are coming from, and us,” DeProto replied. “It leaves me with an uneasy feeling, but logistically, we’re pretty far away.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to trash the Virginia Red Hen restaurant that did refuse to serve Sanders.

Trump said in a tweet Monday morning that The Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, Virginia "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.''

The president, an admitted germophobe, added: "I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!''
The restaurant's co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson told The Washington Post that her reasons for asking Sanders to leave included the concerns of employees who were gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump's desire to bar transgender people from the military.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)