In February 2016, Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) voted on a bill to remove the term “Oriental” from federal law, and to replace it with “Asian Americans.”
But a year later, he used the derogatory and antiquated term to describe the raucous town halls that have dogged conservative lawmakers. During a meeting with the editorial board of the Southern Illinoisan newspaper, Bost explained why he avoided in-person town hall meetings with constituents and instead hosted a tele-town-hall.
“The amount of time that I have at home is minimal, I need to make sure that it’s productive,” Bost, who represents the 12th Congressional District of Illinois, told the paper. “You know the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where you’d put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them? That’s not what we need. We need to have meetings with people that are productive.”
The Republican from Murphysboro, Ill., said in a subsequent statement that he “used a poor choice of words,” according to the Associated Press.
“While there was no malicious intent, I regret that my words may have distracted from an important point,” Bost said. “When the booing and shouting drowns out the conversation we’re trying to have with our constituents, it becomes that much harder to govern.”
“I appreciate the Congressman’s apology,” Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y) said Friday.
Meng sponsored the 2016 legislation to eliminate all references to “Oriental” in federal law. The bipartisan bill was signed by President Obama during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
“The term ‘Oriental’ has no place in federal law and at long last this insulting and outdated term will be gone for good,” Meng said at the time. “No longer will any law of the United States refer to Asian Americans in such an offensive way, and I applaud and thank President Obama for signing my bill to get rid of this antiquated term.
“Many Americans may not be aware that the word ‘Oriental’ is derogatory. But it is an insulting term that needed to be removed from the books, and I am extremely pleased that my legislation to do that is now the law of the land.”
Bost’s spokesman, George O’Connor, told the AP that the Congressman’s use of the word “Orientals” was a reference to a practice during China’s Cultural Revolution when individuals were publicly humiliated and verbally abused by a crowd.
Republican members of Congress have been met with confrontational crowds in their home states. Many, citing safety concerns, have refused to hold town hall meetings.
In a recent tweet, President Trump dismissed the “so-called angry crowds” as “liberal activists.”
Bost has received criticism for not scheduling public events on his home turf. Facebook and Twitter pages called “Where is Mike Bost?” have been created and have resulted in protests outside Bost’s Illinois offices in Carbondale and Belleville, according to the Southern Illinoisan.
Bost told the paper’s editorial board that in-person town halls have gotten out of control, “which means you don’t actually get to talk to people and listen, and we’re looking for ways to do that.”
In response, the Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board wrote Wednesday that constituents want to have a conversation with Bost, particularly about the future of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s an important topic for our community, and it means a lot to a lot of people in Southern Illinois,” the paper wrote. “Bost needs to have this conversation in a public setting.”
The paper further wrote:
Rep. Bost, the people of your district elected you to lead. There are going to be tough times, precisely like this. The people of your district want to have their voices heard, and doing it over the phone or the internet just won’t do.
Will it be tough? Yes. Will there be some difficult back-and-forth? Yes, absolutely. Is the best thing to do right now for the constituents of the district? Yes, most definitely.
But it has to happen. The people of the district deserve a chance to vent.
As a state representative in 2012, Bost created a stir after he screamed at Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, a Democrat from Chicago. Bost erupted as House members were about to vote on a contentious bill to overhaul the state’s pension system, the AP reported. Democrats used an old rule to block any debates or changes to the bill.
Out of frustration, Bost referenced the Bible and threw a stack of papers in the air as he screamed profanities.
“These damn bills that come out here all the damn time come out here at the last second and I’ve got to try to figure out how to vote for my people,” he screamed on the House floor, the AP reported.
He told Madigan that he should be ashamed of himself, according to the AP, and later said he felt like an Israelite slave being held in ancient Egypt.
“Let my people go!” he yelled. “They sent me here to vote for them … but I’m trapped. I’m trapped by rules that have been forced down our throats.”
Bost was first elected to represent the 12th Congressional District of Illinois in November 2014. He won reelection last year.