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"This is my town hall meeting and I set the rules"

by joe.arnold


Posted on September 7, 2009 at 12:55 AM

Updated Thursday, Oct 22 at 1:19 PM

An exchange between U.S. Rep. Baron Hill and a woman at a Bloomington Indiana health care town hall appears to be taking on a life of its own.

The YouTube clip of the altercation has had more than 80,000 views as of Sunday night.

The woman said she was a journalism student -- and complained that she wasn't allowed to videotape the town hall.

"Why can't I film this? Isn't this my right?" she asks incredulously.

"This is my town hall meeting," Hill responds, "and I set the rules, and I've had these rules..." as he continues the crowd begins to jeer him. Then, Hill becomes defiant.

"Let me repeat that one more time. This is my town hall meeting for you. And you're not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office. Now, the reason why I don't allow filming is that usually the films that are done end up on YouTube in a compromising position."

The exchange has been picked up by Fox News nationally and other political websites, like The Huffington Post and Politico.

I spoke with Baron Hill's press secretary Katie Moreau who called the exchange a "very interesting situation."

Moreau explained that Hill's town hall guidelines have been in effect for three years, long before the health care reform controversy. She says only credentialed media are allowed to videotape, because when just anyone in the crowd hauls out the video camera, it's a "really big distraction."

Moreau recalled that the young woman, whom the Huffington Post says was "there to talk about the recent death of her mother and her own commitment to health care reform," had checked in with Moreau at the media table before the town hall began. Moreau says the young woman claimed to be an I-U journalism student, but had not applied for credentials in advance and had no identifying information to that effect.

Moreau disclosed that, as a compromise, the Congressman's staff offered to set up a one on one interview with Baron Hill, but the student refused and walked away very upset.

Regardless of the context, the youtube video of the exchange will doubtlessly be used by whoever opposes Hill in next year's election.

The Huffington Post quotes Congressman John Yarmuth as saying "Baron Hill may have lost his job that night. He had a town hall in Bloomington and apparently banned recorders. When a 17-year-old girl asked why, he kind of went ballistic on her and said 'I set the rules and no one tells me how to run my office!'"

Moreau lamented the climate that produced the exchange in the first place, "That's the down side to all of this. You can't have a frank and open discussion with people anymore."