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Rare Steakhouse Hosted Reporters’ Controversial Happy Hour for Sarah Sanders

Eater logo Eater 6/26/2019 Gabe Hiatt
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters outside the White House in May. © Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders talks to reporters outside the White House in May.

The going away party for the White House Press Secretary was Monday night

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders visibly disdained the press, her face often scrunching into contemptuous creases as she defended a president who refers to reporters as the “enemy of the people,” so it surprised many people last week when HuffPost reported that media members would toast her at an “at an upscale D.C. restaurant” before she steps down at the end of the month.

In a report on Monday’s farewell happy hour, the New York Times identified that restaurant as Rare Steakhouse & Tavern, the D.C. outpost of a Wisconsin-based brand known for its extensive dry-aging program. Rare is one of several high-end steakhouses within blocks of the White House that count politicians, lobbyists, and reporters as customers, fueling the outdated notion that D.C.’s restaurant scene is mostly made up of places that offer steak tartare and shrimp cocktails.

Eater called Rare to ask about hosting the happy hour. “We never comment on any party held here at Rare,” General Manager Drew Nannis said.

The Washington Post, which chose not to mention the steakhouse’s name in its coverage, counted reporters from Fox News, Reuters, Newsmax, and Politico among the crowd. Sanders shut down Post media blogger Erik Wemple — who the Times described as “bounc[ing] around in a short-sleeve tropical shirt” — when he tried to ask her if she had been honest in her dealings with the press. Sanders replied that the cocktail hour, hosted by the very journalists charged with reporting most directly on the Trump administration, wasn’t the “appropriate venue.”

Wemple reported that Sanders sipped a clear beverage from a wine glass; the Times indicated that she had been drinking wine, reporting that Sanders “refused to discuss, on the record, matters even as mundane as the varietal of wine she’d been sipping.” (The list of wines by the glass is extensive, ranging from a $10 Sauvignon blanc to a $33 Cabernet.)

Several reporters said it was their job to interact with White House officials and defended Monday’s get-together, hosted by Politico’s Anita Kumar and the Daily Mail’s Francesca Chambers, as a common courtesy that predates the Trump administration. Others didn’t want to be associated with the shindig. “You’d better not say I was here,” one reporter told the Times.

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