UPDATE: The video is now working.
This morning in Richmond, VA, the local newspaper — the Richmond Times-Dispatch — hosted a “public square” discussion on health care reform with Democratic congressman Bobby Scott and Republican Minority Whip Eric Cantor. While Scott has held three town hall meetings on health care during this summer’s congressional recess, “Cantor has not held any health-care town halls.”
At the outset of the event, Thomas Silvestri, publisher and president of The Times-Dispatch, made clear that today’s gathering is not a town hall event. “Unlike the town halls conducted by members of Congress, our Public Square isn’t about lobbying a particular position.” Nevertheless, the Republican Party of Virginia sent out an email today, claiming that Cantor was participating in a “Town Hall meeting.”
A constituent who was angered by his congressman’s refusal to host town halls asked the first question at today’s forum, which Cantor completely dodged:
CONSTITUENT: Eric, this question’s for you. For several months, over five months since April, many of us have been requesting for you to hold a town hall meeting to talk about many subjects including health care. Yet, you have refused and ignored our request. Why? [applause] …
CANTOR: Listen, we are here today to talk about health care reform —
CONSTITUENT: It’s not a town hall meeting.
CANTOR — uh, and this is, the purpose should be, to me as lined out, is we ought to be able to try and understand where the two sides are, to be able to bridge those differences. That’s why we’re all here. So I’m glad you’re here this morning.
CONSTITUENT: Well, I want a town hall meeting.
Despite not having hosted a single town hall event in August, Cantor has tried to pretend like he has. Standing before the microphones earlier this month, Cantor said, “Our members are back in town after having been at home with the people they represent over the month of August. I think it’s very clear that the members of the Republican conference feel strongly that the public has awakened, that the wind is at our back, primarily because of the fierce debate over the President’s health care plan.” Perhaps Cantor has just been too busy to meet with his constituents.