GOP Rep Skipped Town Halls Because Of Disruption, ‘Criminal Element’

AP

A Republican congressman from Alabama said he would not hold town halls that were open to the public because of what he described as “different elements from the Democratic Party” who had disrupted his colleagues’ events.

MSNBC’s Kate Snow asked Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) Monday why he had refused, as reported by AL.com, to hold any public town halls during the recent congressional recess.

“That gets into a definitional thing. What is a town hall?” Brooks asked. “I went to Huntsville High School in my district. I also went to a local company, Lasertel, and we had a town hall type format, where I give a Washington update and then questions and comments, whatever comes at me from people who are there.”

According to AL.com, Brooks told the group of students he met at Huntsville High: “They can ask any question they want.” And the News Courier reported last week that Brooks had toured the Lasertel facility in his district.

“There are a lot of different factors that have caused me not to have any town halls, as some people interpret that phrase, and that’s where it’s open to anybody and everybody,” Brooks said, making air quotes around “town halls.”

“On the one hand, town halls aren’t what they used to be. They used to be a forum in which citizens could come, you’d have a polite, courteous interchange of ideas, and I as a congressman would have a better idea as to what my constituents wanted, and constituents would have a better idea of what my belief system is and why I’m doing what I’m doing,” he continued.

“Nowadays with different elements from the Democratic Party, you’ve got the disrupters, you’ve got the Socialists, you’ve got the somewhat criminal element that’s engaged in criminal conduct at some of these types of events, you cannot have a town hall as those things used to be done.”

According to AL.com, Brooks referenced four incidents of injury or property damage which had discouraged him from holding a town hall. Three of them did not occur at town hall events.

Aside from protests against Milo Yiannopoulos at UC Berkeley and the burning of a limousine during the presidential inauguration, Brooks cited a boisterous exchange in Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s (R-CA) Huntington Beach office, though accounts of what happened there differ wildly.

Brooks also cited an incident of tire slashing outside Rep. Tom McClintock’s (R-CA) town hall last week.

“I still have, quote unquote, ‘town halls,’ but they’re in a different kind of setting where we can still have a polite and courteous exchange of information,” he said. “Now, on the other hand, I’m still meeting with any constituent that wants to meet with me, but it’s not in front of a TV camera, where people tend to showboat.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Shuham is a news writer for TPM. He was previously assistant editor of The National Memo and managing editor of the Harvard Political Review. He is available by email at mshuham@talkingpointsmemo.com and on Twitter @mattshuham.
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