Tensions are running so high at town hall meetings that Rep. David Scott, a Georgia Democrat, yelled at a local doctor concerned about health care after mistaking him for an “astroturf” political operative looking for a fight.
Mr. Scott became visibly agitated when one of his constituents, a practicing doctor, asked a few questions about health care reform during a town hall meeting. The meeting was held to discuss a road project, but was opened up for questions near the end. That’s when Dr. Brian Hill stood up to speak.
Dr. Hill asked Mr. Scott why he was going to vote for a health care plan similar to that implemented in Massachusetts “that is shown not to work” and if he supported a government-provided health care insurance option.
The congressman replied by accusing the doctor of “hijacking” his event.
“I’m listening to my constituents, OK?” Scott said, “These are people who live in the 13th Congressional district, who vote in this district. That’s who I’ve got to respond to … So what you’ve got to understand, those of you who are here, who have taken and came and hijacked this event we dealing with here, this is not a health care event.”
“You chose to come and to do it on your own,” he yelled. “Not a single one of you had the decency to call my office and set up for a meeting.” He went on, in a threatening voice, “You want a meeting with me on health care, I’ll give it to you!”
The outburst is yet another example of how confrontational town hall meetings have become over recent weeks, as constituents are becoming more forthright in asking their elected representatives challenging questions. These actions and other forms of protest have been encouraged by limited government advocacy groups opposed to the stimulus package, the Democrats favored health care reforms and other big spending government proposals.
The White House has labeled these efforts “astroturf”, shorthand for fake grassroots. To combat these efforts, groups supporting these plans — such as Service Employees International Employees Union — have been appearing at these town halls as well, effectively creating local “showdowns” between opposing political powers.
Mr. Scott’s public tirade against the doctor was filmed by WXIA-TV News, a local NBC affiliate that confirmed the doctor lived in the congressman’s district in a follow-up interview.
The doctor told WXIA he wasn’t working for any outside causes and had called Mr. Scott’s office repeatedly, asking to speak with the congressman.
“I did not go to a meeting to create any problems, I went to the meeting to literally ask a question that I thought was very, very important for my patients,” he said.
(NOTE: The WXIA video report of the event that includes the congressman’s remarks and the post-interview with the doctor is available on their website here under the video titled “Congressman Scott’s Town Hall.” HotAir.com, a conservative-leaning blog, also has it embedded into their item about the town hall here. It is more easily accessed on HotAir.com)