Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a man who supported separating parents from their children at the U.S.-Mexico border, dined at two Mexican restaurants on Friday, the same day he gave a speech about unchecked immigration in Houston. First, he had huevos rancheros at La Mexicana, according to the Chronicle. Then, for dinner, he had fajitas at El Tiempo Cantina.
After chatting with El Tiempo Cantina’s co-owner and chef Dominic Laurenzo, Sessions posed for a photo which landed on the restaurant’s social media accounts. The restaurant’s caption on the photo noted that it was an “honor” to serve Sessions. “Thank you for allowing us to serve you,” the final line read.
The backlash was swift, and the restaurant group that owns El Tiempo Cantina was forced to delete the post and shut down its social media accounts over the weekend amid calls for a boycott.
But, Roland Laurenzo, president of El Tiempo Cantina’s parent company, Laurenzo’s Restaurant Group, now says it was a misunderstanding. He told CBS that while Sessions was “treated like any other guest,” the restaurant’s social media post was not meant to “imply the company endorses Sessions’ politics.” Further, Laurenzo says he and his team are not “in favor of separating families,” and do not agree with Sessions’ views on gay rights.
“In retrospect, it was a mistake because it angered so many people,” Laurenzo told the local news station. “We have gotten so many complaints and comments. And threats, death threats. This has been extremely shocking to our family.”
A day after posting the photo to its Facebook page the restaurant took its social media accounts offline. Yelp has not yet posted a “clean up” alert on El Tiempo Cantina’s page though several reviews reference the Attorney General’s visit.
“We didn’t think we were doing something wrong,” Laurenzo told local news stations. “We didn’t have any idea this was going to happen.”
That would be plausible if Laurenzo hadn’t seen any recent news reports showing that Trump administration officials haven’t exactly been welcome at restaurants in the past few months. First, it was Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, who was asked to leave the Red Hen in Lexington, Virginia in June. Then, in early July a diner in D.C. approached EPA chief Scott Pruitt and asked him to resign (three days later he took her advice!). And who can forget the times Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was heckled out of restaurants in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky? It’s a wonder Sessions’ meals weren’t even interrupted.