Burlington County Times

Rep. MacArthur Meets With Protesters

Burlington County Times — February 26, 2017

By David Levinsky, staff writer

U.S. Rep. Tom MacArthur continues to say he won't be baited into holding an in-person town hall meeting where protesters can make a scene of blasting him and President Donald Trump.

But he insists he's still willing to have face-to-face conversations with people, regardless of their political opinions.

The Republican congressman did that Thursday night by meeting with a few dozen protesters who gathered outside a Toms River radio station in order to pressure him into holding a town hall meeting.

MacArthur, now in his second term in Congress, said he spoke with the protesters for about 40 minutes and took questions on issues such as health care, gun control, environmental protections and Trump's actions.

In a Facebook social media post, he described the meeting as a "genuine, open, respectful conversation" that delved into his own upbringing in a family with divided political leanings.

"I grew up with a mom who was a progressive Democrat and dad who was a conservative Republican," MacArthur said he told the group. "They loved each other, and I love and respect both of them."

"Talking with the crowd (Thursday) night was like dinner back at home. I'm grateful for those who took the time to make me a better representative, and I always welcome the opportunity to have productive conversations with my constituents," he said in the post.

The meeting came shortly after MacArthur made an hourlong appearance on the radio show "Ask the Congressman" on 92.7 WOBM-FM amid a congressional recess during which Republican lawmakers nationwide are being pressed into holding town hall meetings so that residents can share their opinions.

Hundreds of residents turned out to one Wednesday night at an Evesham school that was organized by New Jersey Citizens Action and a local grass-roots "indivisible" chapter that have been pressing MacArthur to hold an in-person town hall.

He did not attend but held a telephone town hall meeting, his second in two weeks.

During the radio show, MacArthur said the event's purpose was solely to try to embarrass and damage him and was not the appropriate venue for a "dialogue."

"These are progressive activist groups with organizers that have a very specific agenda," he told radio host Tom Mongelli. "This wasn't a town hall that I didn't attend. This was really ... a progressive values rally."

"I recognize that in the middle of all that noise are well-intentioned constituents of mine that want to be heard. And I and my team are looking for every way for me to hear from my constituents without getting caught up with these outside activist groups that I think are causing a good deal of trouble to advance their own means."

During the show, MacArthur was challenged by a caller to meet with him and other demonstrators outside the station.

"There's nobody who organized this event. This is very organic," said Mark Callaghan, of Bayville, Ocean County.

"There are a lot of progressives that are not activists that just have a very different view than you do, and what our current so-called president does. We need you to stand up for us," Callaghan said.

MacArthur responded that he would be happy to meet with Callaghan and other concerned constituents, but added: "It can't be a show that just tries to get a YouTube moment for people who want to use that later on for their own agenda."

In addition to meeting with the protesters Thursday night, MacArthur spoke with members of another opposition group Tuesday evening, as well as a group of Evesham Democrats who were meeting in the community building where his Burlington County constituent services office is located.

MacArthur walked in on the meeting after seeing a sign advertising it.

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