Main Street Lexington is a volunteer business organization founded in 2013 with the goal of “re-establishing downtown Lexington as the vibrant economic and cultural nexus of our area.” Today, Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen restaurant, resigned her position as the group’s executive director. From WDBJ 7:
Elizabeth Outland Branner, Board President of Main Street Lexington, says she accepted the resignation of Wilkinson as the executive director of Main Street Lexington.
“Considering the events of the past weekend, Stephanie felt it best, that for the continued success of Main Street Lexington, she should step aside,” Branner states.
I’d say that’s her first smart decision in the last week. The Facebook page for Historic Downtown Lexington Virginia, which may not be directly connected with Main Street Lexington, posted a statement criticizing Wilkinson’s decision and apologizing to President Trump and Press Secretary Sanders. That post has since been removed but screenshots of it exist:
"We do not condone the actions of Stephanie Wilkinson, owner of the Red Hen Restaurant and Director of Main Street Lexington." "Actions are being taken that will hopefully end her position" ~ Historic Downtown Lexington Virginia pic.twitter.com/Gorn0WSy0N
— Lisa Scherr (@BBUMH) June 25, 2018
The same page apparently also ran a poll asking if Wilkinson should keep her position as director of Main Street Lexington:
The Facebook Poll from the Historic Downtown Lexington Virginia page is over. Here are the results: 80% against Stephanie Wilkinson keeping her position as the Director of Main Street Lexington. pic.twitter.com/cPvbw1UvH6
— John Beagle (@johnbeagle) June 25, 2018
Wilkinson has other problems to worry about. Wired reports that reviews for her restaurant have taken a beating on Yelp since she asked Sanders to leave:
Many of the press secretary’s supporters spent the weekend vandalizing the restaurant’s page by leaving thousands of fraudulent one-star reviews. Others who agreed with Wilkinson’s decision responded by writing retaliatory five-star reviews, turning Yelp into an unwilling platform for political speech. In essence, Yelp became a battleground—and not for the first time…
In theory, when a local business becomes part of a national controversy, Yelp has an established strategy to deal with the fallout. In reality, the Red Hen’s Yelp page remains a mess. It had more than 15,000 reviews at the time of writing and the restaurant’s overall rating is down to 1.5 stars, from nearly five stars several days ago.
Wilkinson strikes me as an extremist who invited a public response to her public action. So if anyone wants to badmouth her personally or refuse to visit her restaurant in response, I get that. But I still wish we weren’t in this situation in the first place. I’ve written before that one of the things I like about the right is that not everything has to be political. While the left puts out talking points for every Thanksgiving dinner, the right generally takes a pass on that sort of thing. And that’s to our credit.
But so long as the left insists on making everything a part of its #resistance drama, I guess this kind of backlash, while regrettable, is inevitable. You can’t start a political firestorm in your own place of business and then complain when your business was burned down by the same political firestorm. It seems Stephanie Wilkinson is learning that the hard way.