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‘New rules’ for restaurants? Alleged spitting on Eric Trump sparks debate

‘New rules’ for restaurants? Alleged spitting on Eric Trump sparks debate
A restaurant server who allegedly spat on Eric Trump, the President’s son, has been placed on leave. In the wake of the incident, the media has entertained the idea of restaurant attacks being a form of legitimate resistance.

Trump Jnr. was allegedly spat on in The Aviary, a swanky Chicago cocktail lounge, on Tuesday night. Police and secret service were called to the scene, and Trump ultimately declined to press charges. However, he told Breitbart that the incident was “despicable,” and called his attacker “someone who clearly has emotional problems.”

The incident was decried by conservative pundits. “If you’re celebrating this trend, you’re a loser,” radio host Joe ‘Pags’ Pagliarulo tweeted. Chicago’s Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot also emphatically condemned the server on Friday, calling her alleged actions “repugnant,” and adding “no one deserves that. No one.”

Others cheered the alleged attack, with one enraged observer stating that Trump deserved “far worse than spit.”

While comments like these are par for the course among #resistance types on Twitter, the Washington Post joined in the debate on the anti-Trump side, offering precious column inches to an op-ed by Stephanie Wilkinson, who famously booted then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders from her restaurant –the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia– last June.

After a cursory admission that “no one in the industry condones the physical assault of a patron,” Wilkinson went on to offer a full-throated defense of every other kind of harassment, and defended her decision to turf out Sanders and friends.

“The rules have shifted,” she argued. “If you’re directly complicit in spreading hate or perpetuating suffering, maybe you should consider dining at home.”

Wilkinson claimed that while some anti-discrimination rules apply, “eateries have always reserved the right to refuse service.” She lauded the staff at a Tennessee Cracker Barrel who barred an anti-LGBT Baptist preacher from holding an event at their restaurant a week before Trump was spat on in Chicago.

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But suppose for a moment that the shoe were on the other foot? Recall the case of the Colorado Christian baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay couple in 2012, citing his own religious opposition to gay marriage. Rather than ‘consider baking at home’ or taking their business to the near-dozen other (equally highly rated) bakeries in town, the couple in question sued the Christian bakery for discrimination, and fought the case right up to the Supreme Court, which sided with the baker last year on First Amendment grounds.

The incident at The Aviary on Tuesday was just the latest in a series of crude exchanges between President Trump’s circle and protesters at restaurants, which have become a sort of public sphere for the airing of grievances in the Trump era.

As outrage over the Trump administration’s detention of illegal immigrant children last summer mounted, a host of Trump officials and prominent Republicans were accosted by the left in restaurants: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and, later, Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

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Then, like now, the initial debate was the same: The most vocal anti-Trumpers and resisters defended their behavior, arguing that officials in a morally repugnant administration should be given no peace once off the clock. Republicans and independents called for a return to civility, and some even warned their colleagues to arm themselves against the most violent protesters.

Wilkinson is right in saying “new rules apply.” The issue is that nobody has defined them yet.

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