This post has been updated.
On Saturday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer had an encounter with a woman with an iPhone. She didn’t want a selfie.
When Shree Chauhan, a former elementary school teacher who is avowedly not a supporter of President Trump, spotted Spicer at an Apple store in the D.C. area, she decided to ask the press secretary some questions “since he doesn’t like the press,” she wrote on Twitter.
“I wanted to speak truth to power,” Chauhan said in a Medium post about the incident that was extremely political and far from polite.
In the video Chauhan posted on Twitter, she can be heard asking Spicer, “How does it feel to work for a fascist?” He answers, “We have a great country.” Chauhan persists. “Have you helped with the Russia stuff? Are you a criminal as well? Have you committed treason, too, just like the president?”
Throughout the 50-second back and forth, Spicer, wearing a dark blazer, a button-down shirt sans tie and a concrete smile, attempts to gently rebuff Chauhan while also shopping for his gadgets, thanking the Apple store employees and shaking the hand of another customer. But there was one comeback that stood out.
As Chauhan continues to ask about Russia, Spicer interjects, “Such a great country that allows you to be here.”
In her Medium post, Chauhan, who is of Indian heritage, characterized that response as threatening and racist.
“Think about the sheer audacity of Mr. Spicer to say that to my face with a smile, knowing that he is being recorded on video and the position of power he holds in our government. I am still stunned by the boldness of having my citizenship threatened on camera,” wrote Chauhan, who added that she has been on the receiving end of online harassment since posting about the Spicer encounter on Saturday.
The go-to insult? “They tell me to leave the country. They have told me to go back to where I came from,” she wrote. “To which my snarky reply is often, ‘Go back where? New York?’”
At a press briefing on Monday, Spicer addressed the incident directly.
“It’s a free country and the beauty of it is that [people] can act how they want,” said Spicer, who also added that 99 percent of his interactions with the public are civil.
Also on Monday, Trump seemed to allude to the incident in a Monday morning tweet.
It is amazing how rude much of the media is to my very hard working representatives. Be nice, you will do much better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2017
Chauhan, who works in education policy, is not a member of “the media.”
This is the second time a White House staffer has been confronted in public by a citizen critic. Last month, Omarosa Manigault felt so harassed by two women inside a Nordstrom store in Virginia that the White House communications director was escorted to her car by security.