U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, just issued a sharp condemnation of a constituent who, at a town hall meeting this week, raised the prospect of violence against President Barack Obama.
A spokesman for Broun also confirmed that his office contacted the Secret Service to report incident.
Broun’s relatively quick reaction is an indication of a changed climate since last month’s shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona. The incident happened on Tuesday night, but didn’t get widespread play until Thursday.
A Broun staffer, as reported by the Athens Banner-Herald, almost immediately called the question “inappropriate.” Broun himself weighed in once it became clear that — this morning — the incident was developing national legs.
“Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Oglethorpe County, Georgia an elderly man asked the abhorrent question, “Who’s going to shoot Obama?” I 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.
After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. 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.”
The Washington Post has dipped in with this:
According to Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, the situation has been looked into.
“We’re aware of the incident and the appropriate steps were taken,” Donovan told me. “At this point it’s a closed matter.”
A law enforcement source confirmed that the Secret Service interviewed the constituent and determined that he or she was an “elderly person” who now regrets making a bad joke.
Here’s the original post on the incident, first recounted by Blake Aued of the Athens Banner-Herald. The remark, Aued wrote, got a big laugh from the crowd.
Aued also captured what he said was Broun’s immediate response:
“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president. We’re going to have an election next year. 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.”
Broun spokesman Austin Carson disputes that. “[Broun] made no response to the original question except to say, ‘Next question,’” Carson said. The words above that Aued reported, the spokesman said, was Broun’s answer to the next question. Which was also apparently critical of the president.
Clearly, many people will question whether Broun’s response was swift or strong enough. Among them are Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown, D-Macon:
“Congressman Broun showed no leadership, no tact, and no courage. No elected official should tacitly agree that shooting the president is an acceptable act. He should apologize for his stunning lack of moral courage to the citizens of Georgia, and to the president himself.”
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider