Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz's constituents weren't exactly rooting for his success when he held a town hall meeting Thursday night.
Greeted by a chorus of boos and chants of "do your job," the GOP chairman of the House oversight committee faced questions on everything from his plans to cut funding for Planned Parenthood to why he hasn't looked into President Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest.
Many also voiced their concerns about what Chaffetz would do about climate change, including one young girl who asked him if he believed in science. In response, he stated that there were "good people on both sides of the aisle." When asked about concerns over the swearing in of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, Chaffetz joked, "You’re going to like the bill I introduced to abolish the Department of Education." Neither answer went over well with the crowd.
As The Huffington Post points out, "Chaffetz was a key player in the investigations over the Benghazi attacks and a private email server that plagued Clinton during the presidential campaign. Now he’s under pressure to bring the same scrutiny to Trump." However, according to Politico, when asked about whether he would investigate how Trump might financially benefit from his time in office, he said had no intentions to at this time.
"You’re not going to like this part: The president, under the law, is exempt from conflict of interest laws," he said - again to a chorus of boos.
Crowd at Chaffetz event screaming "Let them in!" at the fire marshall, who has capped capacity despite some open seats and hundreds outside. pic.twitter.com/UcZpcE153G- Byron Tau (@ByronTau) February 10, 2017
The town hall took place at Brighton High School in Cottonwood Heights, where The Huffington Post reports thousands were denied entry despite empty seats due to concerns about crowd control. Those outside continued to protest the congressman by chanting "Chaffetz is a coward" and "your last term." Ultimately, Chaffetz ended up cutting the meeting short 40 minutes early.
Meanwhile, word of the raucous town hall soon spread to the internet, where #ChaffetzTownHall quickly became a trending topic on Twitter.
Autism/vaccine question raised. Chaffetz: "I have had a lot of people express concerns." Reply: "Are they scientists?" #ChaffetzTownHall- Scott Renshaw (@scottrenshaw) February 10, 2017
after #chaffetztownhall you're going to see more and more republicans cancel their townhalls. i guess ppl will have to go to their offices- Oliver Willis (@owillis) February 10, 2017
"Chaffetz is a coward" being chanted by crowd unable to get into over-capacity auditorium. #chaffetztownhall- TifOtter persists (@tifotter) February 10, 2017
Chaffetz is getting booed by my mother in the auditorium of my old high school. Sometimes, life is beautiful. #ChaffetzTownHall- Sasha Smith (@SashaPSmith) February 10, 2017
Update 2/11, 10:00 p.m.: Without any evidence, Rep. Jason Chaffetz has now claimed that he believes those in attendance at the town hall were paid protestors and not actual, concerned constituents. In an interview with Deseret News, he further stated that he believed the crowd's treatment of him was "more of a paid attempt to bully and intimidate" than anything legitimate.
"You could see it online a couple days before, a concerted effort in part to just cause chaos,” he claimed. "Democrats are in disbelief that they have nothing but flailing and screaming to deal with this... We’re better than that. That’s not what the average Utahn is like."
When asked by Deseret News if he will hold another town hall again anytime soon, the congressman responded that he hoped to find a way to speak with his constituents without providing a venue "for these radicals to further intimidate."
As New York Magazine points out, there is no proof that the protestors in attendance at Wednesday's town hall were paid to disrupt the event, nor is there any proof that those in attendance were not from Utah. Furthermore, multiple sources point to the fact that despite Utah being largely Republican, the state has also proven not to be a huge fan of President Donald Trump - hence why they might have pushed back so much against Chaffetz during the event.
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