Talk about lack of civility. Georgia Rep. Paul Broun couldn't have expected this question as he opened the floor for discussion at a recent town hall meeting in the college town of Athens. One unidentified man in the crowd reportedly asked him: "Who's going to shoot Obama?"
The Republican lawmaker said Friday
he was "stunned" by the remark and chose "not to dignify it with a response." He said the culprit was an elderly man in the audience.
An Athens Banner-Herald
reporter covering the event Tuesday couldn't make out the precise wording in the crowded Oglethorpe Couty Commission chamber, but heard the laughter that followed it. There is some dispute about what exactly happened next.
Broun, a physician in his third term in the U.S. House, didn't answer directly or call out the questioner, according to the Athens newspaper account. "The thing is," Broun said, "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 . . . who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare."
Broun spokesman Austin Carson told Salon
the congressman's comment about the president was not in response to the offensive question, but rather to a follow-up inquiry about Obama from a different audience member.
Another Broun aide, Press Secretary Jessica Morris, earlier confirmed that the original town hall questioner had asked about shooting the president. "Obviously, the question was inappropriate," she said, "so Congressman Broun moved on" by addressing the GOP budget proposal. The question came after Broun asked who had driven the farthest to attend the event.
However, one witness, Mark Farmer of Winterville, Ga., told Talking Points Memo
that Broun himself laughed at the original question. And, according to the website, Banner-Herald reporter Blake Aued said Broun chuckled a little -- although Aued could not fully hear the man's question.
That account is at odds with what Broun said Friday. He called the threatening statement "abhorrent" and said after hearing it he "moved on to the next person" in the room. "I deeply regret that this incident happened at all," he said on his website. "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." He said his office notified "appropriate authorities."
A Secret Service spokesman said the agency has investigated the incident and concluded there was no real threat. "We consider the matter closed," said Ed Donovan.
noted that, during Obama's State of the Union speech last month, Broun had posted on Twitter: "Mr. President, you don't believe in the Constitution. You believe in socialism."
Folo Tom Diemer on Twitter http://twitter.com/tomdiemer