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Shame on Rep. who ignored anti-Obama threat

By Roland S. Martin, CNN Political Contributor
  • A man at recent Georgia town hall meeting asked who would shoot President Obama
  • Rep. Paul Broun said he was stunned; he offered no reproach at the meeting
  • Roland Martin: It took Broun three days to denounce the incident; that's nonsense
  • Martin: Shame on Broun, others present for tolerating disrespect for president

Editor's note: Roland S. Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for TV One Cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch With Roland Martin."

(CNN) -- Georgia Republican Congressman Paul Broun now says he was stunned after an elderly man at a town hall meeting said, "Who is going to shoot Obama?"

Broun was so stunned that it took him three days to finally issue his own statement on the comment, which was reported in the Athens (Ga.) Banner-Herald.

Broun now says the comment was so offensive that he didn't want to even "dignify it with a response."

"Therefore, at that moment I moved on to the next person with a question," he said in his statement. "After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities. 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."

I'm sorry, folks, this is simply utter nonsense, and Broun's statement isn't worth the paper it was released on.

You would think that a sitting member of the House of Representatives would not take kindly to anybody --young, middle-age or elderly -- making a joke about shooting an elected official. Particularly after that body, and the nation, was stunned at the attempted assassination of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on January 8 as she met with her constituents.

In his statement, Broun said such comments "cannot and will not be tolerated."

But he did tolerate it. Just imagine what the story would have been had Broun manned up and looked that elderly man in the eye and said, "Sir, how dare you? I don't care if you disagree with the policies of President Obama; I don't care if you are a Republican and he's a Democrat; that man is the president of the United States, and you or anyone else should be ashamed of making light of shooting our president.

"This nation suffered greatly after the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and we fervently prayed for the health of President Ronald Reagan when he was seriously wounded. Sir, I ask you to apologize right now; to me, to the people in this room, and to the president."

Had Broun made that kind of tough statement, there is no doubt that he would have been applauded for showing conviction, denouncing on the spot any hateful comments such as this.

Instead, Broun stood there like a wimp. Two witnesses told a Talking Points Memo reporter that Broun laughed along with the audience to the question.

So what did Broun say in response to the question?

"The thing is, I know there's a lot of frustration with this president," according to the Athens Banner-Herald. "We're going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we'll elect somebody that's going to be a conservative, limited-government president ... who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare."

"There's a lot of frustration"? Broun essentially tied shooting the president of the United States to those not happy with President Obama's policies.

It's this kind of hateful rhetoric that should anger the American people. And conservatives and Republicans should be outraged that one of their own would even utter such a comment. If this had been said at a town hall meeting of a Democrat under President George W. Bush, and a House Democrat responded with a similar meek response, the right wing would rightfully be up in arms for the lack of an immediate denunciation.

It's perplexing to me that folks are just unwilling to set an audience straight.

In 2008, while speaking at an election forum in Houston, a fellow speaker made a comment about the work being done by President Bush in Africa, especially as it related to malaria and HIV/AIDS. The mostly black audience of 1,000 barely responded.

I grabbed the mic and scolded them for their silence, saying it was shameful that their dislike of President Bush would allow them to not be thankful for the billions he earmarked for the Motherland to eradicate the deadly diseases. Then, and only then, did the audience begin to clap in approval.

It would have been wrong for me to not say that at that time. Giving credit to good deeds in Africa doesn't compare to a fool joking about shooting the president, but we can't be so impotent in not challenging our supporters, friends or family for their ridiculous behavior.

Rep. Broun, shame on you for not setting that elderly man straight; shame on the others there who didn't immediately stand up and chastise him for the comment. And shame on that man, whose ignorance knows no bounds, and who clearly has no respect for this nation and the office of the president of the United States.

Whether you voted for him or not, if you're an American, President Obama is our president and deserves the proper dignity and respect we expect for all those who have held that office.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Roland Martin.