The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘You, sir, shut up!’: Republican congressman shouts down a constituent at tense town hall

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) spoke at a town hall in Frost, Tex., when he said he opposed federal legislation protecting women from violence because it is a state issue. (Video: YouTube/Bryan Stewart)
Placeholder while article actions load

A Republican congressman from Texas is caught in a firestorm after he told a constituent to “shut up.”

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) was speaking Saturday at a town hall event in Frost, a small town not far from Arlington, when he said he opposed federal legislation protecting women from violence, because it is a state issue. The crowd erupted over Barton’s remarks, and the moment was captured on video.

“Violence against women — that’s a national issue!” an attendee shouted. “That is an issue that impacts everyone, everywhere — not only in this country but everywhere.”

That comment spurred more loud reactions from the crowd, with one man in particular prompting this from the congressman:

“You, sir, shut up.”

The crowd responded with a combination of apparent anger and applause, with one attendee screaming: “What is that? You don’t tell anybody to shut up! You work for us!”

“I appreciate the interest and participation at every town hall meeting I host,” Barton said in a statement. “These are unscripted live meetings. Over the weekend in Frost, one gentlemen continued to speak over myself and many others who were seeking recognition in orderly fashion.

“I did, however, return to him for the last question of the meeting and allow him the opportunity to voice his concerns.”

Republican town halls are getting very, very nasty

Chris Lewis told the Star-Telegram that he was the constituent Barton called out at the town hall, and he acknowledged he’d perhaps gotten a little too vocal.

“Passions were rising,” Lewis, a teacher, told the newspaper. “Honestly, I was speaking out of turn.”

Of Barton’s exhortation for him to shut up, Lewis said, “I’ve heard worse.”

Chaotic scenes have been playing out in Republican town hall events across the United States. “Swarming crowds and hostile questions are the new normal” and “an early indication of how progressive opposition movements are mobilizing against the agenda of the GOP and President Trump,” The Washington Post reported.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Feb. 22 answered questions from constituents during a tense town hall meeting in Springdale, Ark. (Video: Springdale Public Schools)

As The Post’s Amber Phillips wrote:

Republicans are fully in control of Washington for the first time in a decade, and they haven’t forgotten the motivating issue for their base in 2009. Repealing Obamacare — and replacing it with something else — is their top priority. Republicans took procedural steps on their first week back in Congress this January to make that happen.
But in the absence of an agreed-upon plan to replace it — and the very real threat of millions of people losing their health-care coverage in the process — Republicans’ confident, steady march toward health-care reform has stalled. Lawmakers themselves are anxious about how to smoothly pull out health care from millions of people and quickly slip something better in its place.
Enter a united, fired-up left, which has taken to streets across the nation not once but twice in President Trump’s first few weeks in office. These protesters didn’t just come out in Washington and Los Angeles, but in Wichita, rural Virginia and Anchorage. It has all the appearance, as my colleague James Hohmann wrote recently, of the liberal answer to the tea party movement.

Swarming crowds and hostile questions are the new normal at GOP town halls

On his Twitter account, Barton noted, “I work for the people of the 6th District of Texas and am honored to represent them in Washington.”

A 32-year veteran of the House, he represents the Arlington area, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Since Saturday’s town hall, constituents and others on social media have been blasting Barton, a member of the Tea Party Caucus.

“Hey Joe, you rich old FART. YOU SHUT UP !!!” one wrote on his Facebook page. “You work for us. We pay your salary. So, you shut up and listen.”

“Hey Joe … SHUT UP! I cannot believe you speak to your employers so rudely,” another person wrote.

“We won’t shut up!!!!” someone else added.

More reading:

Sean Spicer blames chaotic town halls on ‘professional protesters.’ So did Obama’s team.

The poor ‘just don’t want health care’: Republican congressman faces backlash over comments

GOP finds fix for chaotic town halls: Don’t hold them

A town hall survival guide for Republican members of Congress