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Did Rep. Paul Broun flub 'Who is going to shoot Obama?' query?

Rep. Paul Broun (R) of Georgia, who has called Obama a socialist, didn't immediately condemn a question asked at a town hall meeting: 'Who is going to shoot Obama?' Do politicians have a duty to denounce such talk?

By Staff writer / February 25, 2011



Atlanta

Rep. Paul Broun, a conservative from northeast Georgia and one of President Obama's most hardline critics in Congress, received this shocking question from a town hall attendee Tuesday night: "Who is going to shoot Obama?"

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According to the Athens Banner-Herald, Mr. Broun, a two-term congressman, addressed the question by saying, "I know there's a lot of frustration with this president," and by pointing to next year's election as an opportunity to elect "somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president ... who will sign a bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare."

In a statement Friday, Broun said, "I deeply regret that this incident happened at all. Furthermore, I condemn all statements – made in sincerity or jest – that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the President of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated." Broun also said his office "took action with the appropriate authorities."

RELATED: Arizona shooting: Seven times politics turned to threats or violence last year

Coming about a month after the shooting of Broun's colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), in Tucson, Ariz., and a national debate about heated political rhetoric, the incident has pushed Broun suddenly into the spotlight, with critics saying he should have condemned the question or pushed back more forcibly. Politicians' failure to do so, they say, can inadvertently give the impression that they promote unacceptable, even dangerous, ideas.

"It would have been far better for him to have immediately rejected the question," says Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University, in Atlanta. "The question shouldn't have been asked, and he should have responded by saying it was inappropriate."

In 2008, Republican presidential contender John McCain pushed back against anti-Obama rhetoric and urged his followers to tone down their criticisms, which he worried could hurt his campaign. Senator McCain braved boos at a Minnesota town hall event to confront a woman who said, "I can't trust Obama ... he's an Arab." McCain seized the microphone from the woman and replied, "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about. He's not" an Arab.

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