Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said Sunday that he decided not to hold town halls during the congressional recess because people “heckle and scream.”
“It’s all designed to be able to have news coverage at night that says, look at all these angry people screaming at your senator,” Rubio said in an interview on Miami CBS affiliate WFOR. “They are designed to basically heckle and scream at me in front of cameras so that Channel 4 and other networks and other stations at night will report.”
He said that he would have “no problem” holding public events as long as they were a “productive engagement.”
“I enjoy that process very much,” Rubio says. “The problem now is, and it’s all in writing, I’m not making this up, what these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum.”
He referred to an “‘Indivisible’ document,” apparently referring to the website Indivisible Guide, which describes itself as “a practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda.”
“They then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state,” Rubio said. “They, according to the document, they get there early, they take up all the front seats, they spread themselves out.”
He said that attendees “ask questions” and “cheer when the questions are asked.”
“They’re instructed to boo no matter what answer I give, they’re instructed to interrupt me if I go too long, and start chanting things, then at the end they’re also told not to give up their microphone when they ask questions,” Rubio said.
He said town hall attendees are “real people,” albeit “real liberal activists.”
“I respect their right to do it but it’s not a productive exercise,” Rubio said.”If it was a productive engagement or conversation, that would be fine.”
Republican lawmakers home in their districts during Congress’ recess faced large crowds and vocal criticism at town halls. Constituents and protesters gathered at public events and outside local appearances by members of Congress.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) held just one event during the recess, at a local high school on Tuesday. He nevertheless continued to criticize his reception at a town hall he held earlier in February, where he said attendees wanted to “bully and intimidate” him with “continuous yelling and screaming.”
“I thought it was a bit over the top,” he said. “The continuous yelling and screaming and not allowing the dialogue.”
Hundreds of people turned up to a town hall Chaffetz held earlier in February, where the crowd chanted: “Do your job!”