The Slatest

Paul Ryan Won’t Hold Public Town Halls Due to Fear of Protesters

House Speaker Paul Ryan checks his watch as he arrives for a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. on June 29, 2017.  

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House Speaker Paul Ryan won’t hold public town hall meetings because he’s concerned about protesters coming in from outside his district. Ryan, who once seemed to relish overflowing town halls, seemed to make the policy official after holding several closed-door meetings with constituents.

“I don’t want to have a situation where we just have a screaming fest, a shouting fest, where people are being bused in from out of the district to get on TV because they’re yelling at somebody,” Ryan told reporters in Madison on Friday. “That does nobody any good. What I want to do is have a civil, good, quiet conversation with constituents.” That is why Ryan says he has been “looking for new and creative ways to interact with my constituents in a civil way.”

So far, these “new and creative ways” have meant telephone town halls, meetings with constituents behind closed doors with pre-arranged questions and no follow-ups, and office hours. When reporters noted there seemed to be little dialogue at pre-arranged business town halls where Ryan went to talk to employees of companies, the speaker said that was just what the press could see. “I find when you guys are there, people kind of clam up,” Ryan said. “They get a little nervous, but when you do business town halls without media it is very interactive, so I am finding a lot of different ways to have a good civil dialogue with constituents.”

Ryan is hardly the first Republican to eschew town halls at a time when these meetings with voters often turn into raucous critiques of the GOP efforts to repeal Obamacare. Earlier this year, Rep. Peter King said he wouldn’t host town halls because they often turn into a “screaming session” that don’t help anyone. “It really diminishes democracy if you’re gonna show up to a meeting to just scream and yell,” King said in February.