Why Did Paul Broun Laugh Off Supporter's Town Hall Comment: "Who Is Going To Shoot President Obama?"
The violent rhetoric so prevalent in the tea party crowd takes a dark turn when a person asks Rep. Paul Broun at a town hall who the person would be to shoot President Obama. Broun's response is almost as disturbing as the question being asked.
Witnesses tell TPM that Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) laughed when an elderly man at his town hall meeting this week asked "Who's gonna shoot Obama?"
Mark Farmer of Winterville, Georgia went to the meeting on Tuesday to ask a question about Social Security reform, and said in an e-mail to TPM he was "shocked by the first question and disgusted by the audience response."
"I was gravely disappointed in the response of a U.S. Congressman who also laughed and then made no effort to correct the questioner on what constitutes proper behavior or to in any way distance himself from such hate filled language," Farmer wrote.
Reporter Blake Aued, who was at the town hall and originally reported on the incident confirmed to TPM that Broun was "chuckling a little bit."
Aued described the person who asked the question as "some old man" who "apparently was a huge fan" and had driven 75 miles to get to the meeting.
After laughing at the question, Broun reportedly said "there's a lot of frustration with this president."
"We're going to have an election next year," Broun said. "Hopefully, we'll elect somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller... who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare."
A Secret Service spokesman tells Greg Sargent that the agency was aware of the incident, had taken appropriate steps, and now consider it a closed matter. A law enforcement source told Sargent that the Secret Service interviewed the person who made the comments who now regrets making a bad joke.
Conservative humor never does work, does it? There's not a lot I find redeemable about John McCain, but give the man his due, when the crazy Fox-informed supporter stood up and said that she thought Obama was an Arab, McCain did take the mike from her and chastise her for her remarks, calling Obama a decent family man. Contrast that to Broun choosing to laugh and basically validate the frustration of a man advocating assassination.
After 72 hours of the local press and the blogosphere starting to snowball the incident, Broun released a statement distancing himself from his initial actions:
"I deeply regret that this incident happened at all," Broun said in a statement. "Furthermore, I condemn all statements -- made in sincerity or jest -- that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated." Broun also said his office "took action with the appropriate authorities."
Broun said that he "was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response; therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question."
Well, that's not exactly true, is it? It's hard to say that you didn't dignify it with a response when you in fact responded with a chuckle and an acknowledgment of a frustration level that made assassination an option to consider.
It is a shame that only months from the tragedy of the Gabby Giffords shooting, that any elected representative would appear so glib over a call for violence. But Brown isn't above making his own rather heated rhetoric either.
It's generous of Broun to recognize that suggesting assassination is a bridge too far, but it's not entirely clear where he draws the line. In the past few years, Broun has warned that members of the "socialistic elite" are plotting to declare martial law and repeatedly called for vigilance against his political opponents, whom he deems "domestic enemies":
BROUN: [Obama] has the three things necessary to establish an authoritarian government, and so we need to be ever vigilant because freedom is precious.
BROUN: Americans will be watching for Congress to fiercely defend this country against enemies, both foreign and domestic. Our foreign enemies may be easily identified and grab national headlines, but we must remain vigilant of our domestic enemies who ignore the original intent of the Constitution.
Moreover, Broun has warned that "people are gonna die" because of clean energy reforms, claimed the public health insurance option would "kill people," and compared the Affordable Care Act to the "Great War of Yankee Aggression."
In other words, there's no reason for Broun to be "stunned" by his constituent's venom. If anybody takes Broun's histrionics seriously — and he was reelected, after all — why wouldn't they think violence was necessary to maintain their liberty?