As Republican lawmakers across the country have faced raucous, chaotic town halls in recent days, a number have refused to have these events. Some cited safety as a reason, while others said they didn't want their events "hijacked" by the confrontations seen elsewhere.Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), in a statement released this week, blamed his decision not to hold these events in person on "the threat of violence at town hall meetings." He also pointed to a specific violent event to bolster his case, invoking the 2011 shooting that severely injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and killed six others.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) isn't a politician who generally has to worry about pushback from the left. The far-right congressman won re-election in the fall by more than 49 points, and the district he represents -- Texas' 1st -- is among the reddest in the country.But Gohmert still doesn't want to hold a town-hall events for his constituents, and as the Washington Post noted, the Texas Republican pointed to a specific excuse for his decision.
"Threats are nothing new to me and I have gotten my share as a felony judge," he said in a written statement. "However, the House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed -- just as happened there."By this reasoning, of course, members of Congress, six years after the Giffords shooting, shouldn't hold any public appearances.This prompted Giffords herself to speak up and push back."To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage," Giffords said in a statement. "Face your constituents. Hold town halls." She added that during her congressional career, "listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do."Gohmert, however, won't budge. "Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety," he said.To the extent that reality still matters, no Republican town-hall gathering this year has turned violent; there's literally no evidence to support far-right conspiracy theories about paid protesters; and progressive activists to date haven't "threatened public safety" at all.Have some courage. Face your constituents.