Shree Chauhan, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Parents in Partnership, had a chance encounter with White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at an Apple store recently and took the opportunity to film him while bombarding him with a litany of pressing questions.
The Indian American executive asked a number of hard questions to the press secretary, including, “How does it feel to work for a fascist?” “Did you help with the Russia stuff?” “Have you committed treason?” and “Are you a criminal as well?” among others.
The video of the encounter, posted on Chauhan’s periscope account March 11, has gone viral after she claimed that Spicer later made a racist comment to her, allegedly saying, “It’s such a great country that allows you to be here.”
Chauhan, 33, posted a lengthy blog on Medium March 12 explaining how she had shattered her iPhone screen on Election Day and it wasn’t until March 11 that she decided to head to the Apple store to get a replacement, where she bumped into Spicer.
Despite the video showing her peppering Spicer with questions, she wavered before taking hold of the opportunity.
“I was honestly quite nervous and wanted to come up with more cogent questions but did not have time to do so,” she wrote in the blog.
Chauhan later wrote that she has lived in Washington, D.C., for about a decade and understands to give public figures their space, having done so in the past when she had been in close quarters with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Sen. Chuck Grassley.
But when she saw Spicer — and Googled him to ensure it was him — she couldn't keep to "these norms and customs."
"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, if in fact it was not," she wrote.
Chauhan said she watched the video countless times, and had others watch it as well. They concluded that Spicer in fact said, "Such a great country that allows you to be here."
"That is racism and it is an implied threat," she said. "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."
The education activist said she is stunned by Spicer's "boldness" of his comments made on camera.
"I was not polite. But when does being impolite mean that I should be thrown out of the United States of America?" she added. "The country I was born in, the country I was raised in, the country I love despite its flaws."
In the video, Spicer shows signs of discomfort, attempting to avoid and ignore Chauhan while she continued to point her phone at the press secretary and ask several pointed questions.
At about the 20-second mark of the 51-second video is when Spicer is heard saying the comment Chauhan deemed “racist.”
In a Daily Mail report, Chauhan dismissed the idea that Spicer’s comments were in reference to the First Amendment rights of all citizens to exercise free speech.
“He’s the press secretary for the president of the United States,” she said in the report. “Don’t tell me what he probably meant because he also works for this administration that has done all of these things,” she said, referencing the president signing executive orders to ban entry into the country from a number of Muslim countries.
“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,” she said in the report.
Chauhan added that, since Trump’s election, she has feared for her safety. Recently, a number of alleged hate crimes have taken place against Indian Americans, including in Kansas and Washington state, as well as potentially in South Carolina, though authorities have said the fatal shooting is not considered racially driven.
“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 in the report. “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.”
Parents in Partnership is an education startup that “empowers parents to lead positive changes I schools and communities,” according to a report in heavy.com.
Shree Chauhan’s periscope video can be seen here: