Rep. Chris Stewart, returning home to Utah during the Congressional August recess, held a town hall on Wednesday evening with his constituents, several of which expressed criticism of the lawmaker for failing to call out what they said is racist rhetoric emanating from President Donald Trump.
Eighty people attended the meeting, according to reporting from ThinkProgress, and a spirited debate erupted among the constituents and Stewart.
Some took issue with what he had to say. In response to a question about his thoughts on two mass shootings that happened last weekend, including one in El Paso that was committed by a white supremacist (who self-identified as much in a supposed manifesto he wrote), Stewart explained that he condemned all violence and racism.
Some constituents fought back against his comments, noting he did not vote to condemn racism last month in a House resolution chastising President Donald Trump for making attacks against four congresswomen of color.
When one constituent brought that directly to Stewart’s attention, he responded indignantly, presuming that the individual asking him the question was accusing him of being a racist, MSN reported.
“By your question, you’re implying I’m a racist. Why would I support a racist if I wasn’t?” he said.
Stewart then said that it was Trump’s actions more than his words that he’d judge him by, in terms of him being a racist.
Here's audio of constituents confronting @RepChrisStewart at his town hall last night, including an exchange with a man who draws a comparison between @realDonaldTrump and Charles Manson #utpol pic.twitter.com/GhxFV6IMBt
— Benjamin Wood (@BjaminWood) August 8, 2019
“The president of the United States, as far as I know, hasn’t shot anyone,” Stewart answered.
When others objected to that reasoning, Stewart deflected, saying that the conversation was breaking down and they were moving on.
“There are some people who want to come have a conversation,” he said.
Several Republican lawmakers are facing pushback from constituents at their town halls and other meetings back home over Trump’s rhetoric during this year’s August recess. When Republican Rep. Don Bacon went back to his district in Nebraska, he suggested it was wrong to call the president a racist because then “you’re turning away half the population.”
Many applauded, but one person spoke up against that line of thinking, Roll Call reported.
“As someone with brown skin, how are you going to protect me?” a woman asked.
Bacon was critical of the woman’s comment. I do think we need to raise the level of how we communicate with each other. I just think we’ve crossed the line into judging what’s in people’s hearts,” he said.
“Well then you should talk to the president and ask him not to say these things, then I wouldn’t be afraid for my own safety,” she retorted.