At a town hall in Athens, Ga., earlier this week, an unidentified attendee asked Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), "Who is going to shoot Obama?" To the shock of some observers, the conservative congressman failed to condemn the question, simply saying, "The thing is, I know there's a lot of frustration with this president," before changing the subject. By some accounts, Broun even laughed along with the crowd. In response to growing criticism, Broun issued a statement earlier today calling the assassination question "abhorrent," condemning all such threats, and noting that his office "took action with the appropriate authorities." Especially given the recent attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' life, was Broun's initial response inadequate?
Broun blew it: The congressman "tried to show empathy for the questioner," says Zaid Jilani at Think Progress. That's telling given that, of all Congress members, "Broun has used perhaps the most vitriolic rhetoric to describe his political opponents, including Obama." He's compared the president to Hitler and said that health care reform would "kill" seniors. This "outlandish" question can be seen as a consequence of Broun's caustic political discourse.
"Broun's vitriol spawns hate as constituent asks congressman, 'Who's going to shoot President Obama?'"
He should do much more than apologize: A number of witnesses are saying Broun actually laughed at the question, says Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic. That "kind of a response to a demand to assassinate the first black president of the United States," simply cannot be tolerated. "He needs to resign."
The question probably just caught Broun off guard: Let's consider some context, says University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock, as quoted in The Christian Science Monitor. Broun is a far-right politician and he was surrounded by far-right supporters who were laughing at the question. He was probably taken aback and caught "flat-footed." He had to respond immediately, but then in hindsight, probably realized it could have been handled better. It's unfair to conclude that Broun would endorse threats to the president's life.
"Did Rep. Paul Broun flub 'Who is going to shoot Obama?' query?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Obama just kneecapped Jeb Bush and Chris Christie's 2016 prospects
- It's official: The religious right is calling it quits
- 6 tiny scientific mistakes that created huge disasters
- 10 things you need to know today: November 22, 2014
- 10 classic Sesame Street moments we wouldn't show today's kids
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The dangerously childish morality of liberal ObamaCare supporters
- Don't change a thing: 8 inventions that never needed updating
- The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1: 10 major differences between the book and the movie
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
Subscribe to the Week