Rubio says town halls designed for people to 'heckle and scream'

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE (R-Fla.) explained Sunday why he decided not to hold town hall meetings during the President's Day recess, saying such events were designed for activists to "heckle and scream" at him in front of cameras.

During an interview Sunday with CBS4-Miami's Jim DeFede, Rubio said they are "not town halls anymore."

"And I wish they were because I enjoy that process very much," the former GOP presidential candidate said. 


“The problem now is, and it's all in writing, I'm not making this up. What these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum, they then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

Rubio said these people then get to town hall events early and take up all the front seats.

"They spread themselves out. They ask questions. They all cheer when the questions are asked," he said.

"They are instructed to boo no matter what answer I give. They are instructed to interrupt me if I go too long and start chanting things. Then, at the end, they are also told not to give up their microphone when they ask questions. It’s all in writing in this indivisible document," he said, referencing the online group Indivisible that labels itself as a "practical guide for resisting the Trump agenda." 

Rubio said he believes these people are "real liberal activists," adding that he respects their right protest. 

"But it's not a productive exercise," Rubio said.

"It's all designed to be able to have news coverage at night that says look at all these angry people screaming at your senator."

Rubio said he was elected as a candidate who wanted to repeal and replace ObamaCare, adding that his opinions on a number of other issues have been well-documented.

"I was elected on that platform. I was reelected by a lot of votes on that platform, and that's what I intend to do," he said.

"It would be unfair to the people that voted for me, my of whom voted for me because of my opposition to ObamaCare, to now suddenly vote like the person whom I beat and so that's what I intend to do."

Rubio said he thinks a large percentage of those people who attend town halls across the country are organized activists.

“If it was a productive engagement or conversation, that would be fine. I'd have no problem justifying my views on these issues. The problem is they are not designed to have a productive engagement,” Rubio told said.

“They are designed to basically heckle and scream at me in front of cameras so that Channel 4 and other networks and other stations at night will report.”

Republican lawmakers have faced backlash during town halls held across the country. Some House and Senate Republicans who held town halls over the past week have been booed, heckled and screamed at.

Rubio last week was confronted by a demonstrator who questioned why he wouldn't hold a town hall.

“Senator, I thought you were in Europe,” an unidentified man tells Rubio in footage of their exchange posted on Twitter by Tomas Kennedy, whose Twitter lists him as a community organizer for SEIU Florida.

"I saw all these missing child posters all over town. I’m glad you’re OK, but are you going to host a town hall? There’s a constituent town hall today. Senator, we need to hear from you — your constituents.”

Rubio mostly brushed off the comments, continuing on his way and responding, “Good to see you, man."

The Florida Republican defended his lack of recent town halls later that day, noting that people on both sides of the aisle can get "rude."

Last week, President Trump tweeted that "so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists."