Ryan says he won’t do public town halls citing concerns over possible protests

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said on Friday he will not hold public town halls due to concerns over potential protestors coming in from outside districts.

“Aside from the obvious security concerns, what we have found is there are people who are trying to come in from out of the district to disrupt town hall meetings and not have a civil discussion, so what I have been doing is looking for new and creative ways to interact with my constituents in a civil way,” Ryan said, speaking at a Boy Scouts event in Wisconsin.

“That’s why I have done a number of telephone town hall meetings, which I find very effective as people don’t have to travel. I do office hours. I just did them this morning in Janesville. In addition, I am doing a lot of business ones,” the Speaker said.

{mosads}Ryan held a town hall-style meeting in his home district on Thursday, though the public was not allowed in. The Speaker took a tour of a manufacturer in Oak Creek, Wis., before meeting with roughly 25 employees and answering their prepared questions.

“I find when you guys are there, people kind of clam up. They get a little nervous, but when you do business town halls without media it is very interactive, so I am finding a lot of different ways to have a good civil dialogue with constituents,” he continued.

Ryan went on to offer office hours as a way to prevent interruptions from protesters from outside districts.

“Additionally, if you want to come do office hours, they schedule office hours because I don’t want to have a situation where we just have a screaming fest, a shouting fest where people are being bussed in from out of the district to get on TV because they are yelling at somebody. That does nobody any good, and what I want to do is have a civil, good conversation with constituents, and that’s why I do all these different things, whether it’s planned tours, telephone town halls, office hours and the rest,” he said.

The Hill has asked the Speaker’s spokespeople to clarify whether this will be a temporary or permanent measure.

Ryan and his Republican colleagues in the House, who faced heat from constituents earlier this year during negotiations over the lower chamber’s healthcare reform bill, have struggled with how to handle raucous town halls, many of which go viral. 

Organizers held their own town hall for the speaker in February, where constituents asked a brown chair questions. The town hall was attended by nearly 300 people, according to Fox 6 in Milwaukee.

Ryan faces reelection in 2018. Wisconsin ironworker Randy Bryce received the endorsement of one of Ryan’s former Democratic opponents, shrinking the Democratic primary field.

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