Texas Rep. Joe Barton snapped at a constituent during his March 11 town hall, telling the man to “shut up.”
In a clip of the exchange first published by The Dallas Morning News, Barton is grilled for failing to support legislation to combat violence against women.
“Given your voting record opposing legislation protecting women from violence,” the unidentified questioner begins in the clip,”will you make a commitment to us today, make a promise that you will reach out to congresswoman Jackie Speier and work with her to see this bill successfully through Congress?”
Initially, Barton calmly responds by attempting to dodge the substance of the question and arguing that such legislation is a matter better left to the states, not by sweeping federal legislation — a notion that was met with applause by the audience. After some in the crowd began audibly disagreeing, however, Barton quickly grows frustrated.
“On the first bill that I voted against — that’s a true statement,” he says. “And I voted against it because I think that’s a state issue, not a federal issue,” Barton goes on.
“It’s violence against women, that’s a national issue,” one constituent yells over Barton. “That is an issue that impacts everyone everywhere, not only in this country but everywhere.” It’s unclear if this is the same person who pressed the issue in the first place. Another man simply exclaims, “Civil rights!”
Barton, by now visibly annoyed, points his finger at the questioner and angrily yells, “You, sir, shut up!”
The shocked crowd that had initially applauded Barton’s answer then begins booing their representative for his glib dismissal of a constituent.
“You don’t tell anybody to shut up,” one man yells. “You work for us!”
On Facebook, Barton’s outburst led to angry messages from constituents.
“Guess it’s only okay for you to hold Town Halls with people who don’t question or disagree with you,” one commenter wrote. “Newsflash Mr. Barton: You are a public servant who works for ALL the people in his district. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t deserve to hold that office. Shame on your disgraceful behavior!”
But at least one town hall attendee expressed some sympathy for Barton’s plight in facing down constituents.
“There were times that it appeared that he was under siege, and to his credit he stood and answered all questions as best he could,” wrote Kirk Lee on Facebook, also noting that he didn’t vote for Barton and doesn’t intend to in the future.
Even as he finally faced his constituents, the longest-serving member of Texas’ delegation appeared to be on the run from some of them. Although Barton also represents Arlington, a city with a population of 380,000 residents, he selected two towns with less than 800 residents to host his town halls.
Author: Sophia Tesfaye