Rep. Andy Harris had a long Friday evening filled with boos at a much-anticipated town hall on the Eastern Shore. On Monday morning, he reflected upon the experience on a Baltimore radio show, saying the raucous occasion didn’t go quite as well as one of his online powwows with constituents.
Harris, Maryland’s lone Republican congressman who represents the easternmost district in the state, joined WBAL’s C4 Show this morning to reflect on his town hall at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. Per the AP, protesters were quite vocal at the assembly of roughly 900 people, loudly booing him while he spoke and holding up signs condemning his stances on health care and other issues.
During the event, Harris reportedly grew visibly frustrated about being interrupted and asked at one point, “Are you all done?”
Two days out, Harris suspects people bused in to spoil what he said would have been a productive discussion.
“The bottom line is, we know from social media that there were busloads of people coming in from outside the district,” he said, per WBAL. “It’s carefully orchestrated. People were not there to hear or listen. They were there to make noise.”
Harris didn’t condemn their use of free speech, but said they did make things worse for those who wanted to hear him.
“This is America, that’s their right and their privilege to do it, but it was disrespectful to the people who really go to town hall meetings to actually hear someone and have a conversation about ideas,” he said.
Harris was the only member of Maryland’s congressional delegation who was outspokenly supportive of our new president, former real estate mogul Donald Trump, upon his election to the White House in November. A career anesthesiologist before he stepped into politics, Harris has been critical of government spending and Obamacare since he took office in 2011.
Given his support for Trump, it was a bit ironic that Harris was on the receiving end of some harsh words from the president last week. Harris belongs to the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, which recently pushed back against more moderate colleagues in Congress who wanted to proceed with a replacement bill for Obamacare. After the measure was pulled from the House floor in just over two weeks, President Trump called out the entire Freedom Caucus on Twitter, telling constituents to eye their replacements come next election season.
When C4 asked Harris if he thought some of the booing was tied to support for Trump among constituents in his conservative district, the congressman declined, saying, “This has been going for awhile.”
Before the Friday meeting, constituents had been deriding Harris for not hosting any recent in-person town halls or attending ones put on by constituents. The congressman has taken a liking to teleconference-style town halls in recent months. He defended that strategy this morning, saying they “really are more informative” because he can take more questions and reach more people who tune in online.
The Friday meeting was his 61st-ever in-person town hall, he noted. Usually, he shows slides at the beginning to talk about numbers like the federal deficit or, in this case, the figures behind the failed American Health Care Act.
His detractors didn’t allow him to get very far with the slides, however. “This was not a town hall where people were there to listen,” he said.