White House spokesman Sean Spicer was accosted by an Indian-American woman — who peppered him with questions about committing “treason” and working for a “fascist” like President Trump — as he shopped in an Apple store over the weekend.
The encounter has since gone viral after the woman who filmed it, Shree Chauhan, 33, claimed online that Spicer had made a racist statement to her, saying: “It’s such a great country that allows you to be here.”
“Unlike this administration, I do not believe in ‘alternative facts.’ I believe in facts. I do not believe in accusing someone of this level of racism, when if in fact it was not,” Chauhan wrote Sunday in a lengthy post on Medium.
“So I watched the video over and over again,” she said. “And his words were clear…’Such a great country that allows you to be here.’ That is racism and it is an implied threat.”
Chauhan, who lives in Washington, D.C., filmed the interaction with Spicer on Periscope Saturday night after spotting the White House spokesman in the store. She had been there getting her iPhone fixed and said she ultimately felt the need to “speak truth to power.”
“It is customary to give public figures their space…However, given what Mr. Spicer and his boss are doing to this country, I do not believe they are entitled to these norms and customs,” Chauhan explained.
In the clip, the self-described “eternal optimist” can be heard asking Spicer a series of questions, including “How does it feel to work for a fascist” and “Have you helped with the Russia stuff?”
“We have a great country,” the press secretary replies, while appearing to try to ignore Chauhan.
“Have you committed treason too? Just like the president,” she asks. “What can you tell me about Russia?”
It is after this barrage that Spicer delivers his allegedly “racist” remark, saying: “It’s such a great country that allows you to be here.”
Chauhan wrote on Medium that the response left her disgusted.
“I am still stunned by the boldness of having my citizenship threatened on camera,” she said. “I was not polite. But when does being impolite mean that I should be thrown out of the United States of America? The country I was born in, the country I was raised in, the country I love despite its flaws.”
Speaking to the Daily Mail about the video on Sunday, Chauhan shot down claims that Spicer could have been referring to the First Amendment rights of all Americans to exercise free speech when he made the comment.
“He’s the press secretary for the president of the United States,” she said. “Don’t tell me what he probably meant because he also works for this administration that has done all of these things.”
Chauhan went on to note how Trump has signed executive orders temporarily banning refugees and asylum seekers from predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa.
“He could’ve said, ‘Such a great country that allows dissent,’” she told the Mail. “There’s a lot of way that could’ve been said. To have someone who speaks for the president of the United States tell me to my face that I shouldn’t be here and I was born here — that is a real thing.”
Chauhan added that she’s feared for her safety since the day Trump was elected.
“I woke up the day after the election in fear of what would happen to someone like me. And we’ve seen what happened,” she said. “We’ve seen what happened to Indians.”
Earlier this month, a 39-year-old Seattle resident of Sikh heritage was shot by a man who reportedly shouted “go back to your country” just before pulling the trigger.
Weeks before that incident, a pair of Indian engineers were targeted by a Navy veteran who told them the same thing before blasting away at them. One of the men ended up dying and the other was wounded.
“They’re gonna spin it however they want, but there is a palatable fear that people have in this country and it is warranted,” Chauhan said. “On a regular basis, Mr. Spicer consistently defends the actions — and I believe unconstitutional actions — and lies on behalf of this administration.
“Spicer has the protection of the podium when he’s in the press room,” she added. “I didn’t have time to sit there and ask questions I would ask if I was a reporter…Maybe having someone like a regular person ask those questions instead [of reporters] — that might work.”
(h/t New York Post)