TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — An Oklahoma congressman canceled one of several planned town hall meetings in his district, citing safety concerns as his reason for not meeting with voters, who have been venting at Republican officials at such events in recent months.
U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin planned a stop Tuesday night at a high school in Tahlequah, about 145 miles northeast of Oklahoma City. But the three-term GOP congressman, who has been shouted down at recent town hall meetings, canceled the event shortly before the start.
In a statement, Mullin mentioned "an escalation of protesters" at recent town halls throughout the country and said he needs to provide a safe environment for all attendees. Mullin has planned 26 town halls in his district during Congress' recess.
Holly Baker, of Tahlequah, said she showed up about an hour before the event was scheduled to begin to make sure she got a seat. When she walked in with red and green folders, Mullin staffers asked what she planned to do with them, she said.
"That question really tickled me," said Baker, 56. "When people get silenced, they're going to raise their voices, or they're going to communicate with you with their cards."
At other town hall events, attendees have held up red papers to show they don't agree with something said, or green to show support.
Baker said videos of other meetings with Mullin show he has been telling people what they should believe rather than listening to their concerns.
In one video, Mullin responded "bullcrap" after someone said he is paid by taxpayers.
"I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got there and continue to through my company to pay my own salary," Mullin said. "This is a service."
Mullin did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press. His spokeswoman told The Tulsa World that Mullin was referring to the federal taxes he has paid over the years. Mullin owns a plumbing business.
"Like all business owners, Congressman Mullin pays his taxes, which contribute to congressional salaries," Amy Lawrence said.
Congressional town hall meetings have often turned angry since Donald Trump was elected president. Liberal groups and others who are dissatisfied with the president's agenda have showed up asking pointed questions and sometimes heckling and chanting.
The World reported that thousands of people showed up Tuesday in Tulsa for a meeting with Republican Rep. Jim Bridenstine and that constituents screamed at him and at each other when he said he wanted to defund Planned Parenthood.