McHenry, Buncombe residents clash at Riceville town hall

Patrick McHenry at the Riceville Community Center
STAND AND DELIVER: U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry addresses attendees at his town hall meeting at the Riceville Community Center. Photo by Daniel Walton

“I know this is not your favorite town hall,” an attendee told U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, well over an hour into the 10th Congressional District representative’s annual open meeting for residents of Buncombe County on July 31. By that point, the Republican lawmaker had been booed, interrupted and shouted over numerous times by the crowd of over 110 people at the Riceville Community Center.

McHenry chuckled. “Actually, I do like it!” he said.

It was one of the few lighthearted exchanges in a meeting that more often turned confrontational as McHenry’s constituents challenged him on issues including climate policy, Israel-U.S. relations and the behavior of President Donald Trump. Several speakers called for McHenry to chastise the president over his recent comments about Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib; the House voted to condemn Trump’s words, in which he called for the representatives of color to “go back” to their home countries (despite three of the four having been born in the U.S.), as racist on July 16.

“Your silence about his racist remarks tells us that you either agree with them or that you are afraid to stand up to him and condemn them,” said one speaker as the audience applauded. “Your constituents are at risk every time he tries to incite racial hatred. … Someone is going to get hurt, and it will be on you.”

In response, McHenry said that Trump has consistently attacked those who disagree with him regardless of race, ethnicity or party affiliation. “I do not believe the president is a racist,” he said. “In my interactions with the president, I’ve not seen him utter anything that is racist.”

As members of the audience angrily disagreed with the Congress member’s assessment, he called for them to practice greater civility. “Treat yourself with respect. If you’re going to be so angry about what he says, monitor your language too,” McHenry said. “In the midst of this political discourse — it’s been a dumpster fire much longer than President Trump, before he ever got into politics.”

“Bullshit,” responded a voice from the crowd.

Climate change dominated the policy questions posed by those in attendance, with at least 10 of the roughly 30 speakers asking McHenry to consider stronger measures. Several asked the Congress member to think of his two young daughters as they referenced the 2030 time frame set by a 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report; that document, the consensus of 91 scientists from 39 countries, calls for “transformative systemic change” to drastically reduce carbon emissions and prevent the worst climate impacts.

Although McHenry said he supports electrical grid modernization and incentives for new energy technologies to combat the climate crisis, he rejected calls for wider plans such as the Green New Deal or a carbon tax and dividend. He particularly criticized the former proposal — which calls for meeting 100% of U.S. energy demand through renewable sources, establishing a federal jobs guarantee and slashing emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors within 10 years — saying it would “create a direct revulsion by the populace when they have to be exposed to dramatically higher prices on everything.”

McHenry added that in his own opinion, as well as that of voters and society at large, emergency climate action is unnecessary. He said he would pursue politically feasible “singles and doubles” that gradually cut carbon.

“The broad populace is not seeking the actions that you’re demanding,” McHenry said. “[I’m] looking for innovative solutions, not simply a massive change for the way people live in everyday life. They will reject that.”


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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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11 thoughts on “McHenry, Buncombe residents clash at Riceville town hall

  1. mcates

    “Someone is going to get hurt, and it will be on you.”

    This comment shows just how blinded these people are by their ideology. People have been getting hurt, but it’s due to violence by Leftists attacking anyone that has an opinion different than their own.

    Both Joe Biden and Cory Booker have threatened the President with physical violence.
    Maxine Waters called for threats and attacks on members of the Trump administration.

    Perhaps they missed the hate spewed by their comrades at the Trump event in downtown Asheville. The woman at the event grabbing the Trump supporter from behind.

    The shooting at a Republican softball practice.
    The vicious attack against journalist Andy Ngo.
    Antifa members vandalizing the Metropolitan Republican Club in New York .
    Attacks against people wearing MAGA hats.
    The attacks against both Ted Cruz and Sarah Sanders

    It’s quite a long list. It’s a little late for this person to go blaming McHenry for any violence.

    • NFB

      Oh please. The list of right wing terrorist attacks in the US is quite lengthy:

      Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting in 2012: 6 people killed
      Los Angles Airport shooting 2013: 1 person killed
      Overland Park, KS Jewish Community shooting: 3 people killed
      Emmanuel AME Church Shooting Charleston, SC 2015: 9 people killed
      Planned Parenthood shooting Colorado Springs: 3 people killed
      Murder of Timothy Caughman in New York 2017: 1 person killed
      2017 Portland OR train attack: 2 people killed
      White Nationalist rally in Charlottesville VA 2017: 1 person killed (19 injured)
      Murder of Blaze Bernstein Orange County CA 2018: 1 person killed
      Synagogue shooting Pittsburgh, PA 2018 11 people killed (7 injured)
      Synagogue shooting Poway, CA 2019: 1 person killed
      Shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords in AZ 2011: 6 people killed
      Holocaust Memorial shooting Washington DC 2009 1 person killed
      Unitarian church shooting Knoxville TN 2008 2 people killed
      Eric Rudolph bombings 2 people klled
      Timothy McVeigh bombing 168 people killed

      The list goes on.

      • mcates

        1) The person was trying to blame it on Trump, so you kind of missed the entire point
        2) Most of those were attacks unrelated to the person’s political affiliation.
        3 You make my point for me. The violence was not Trump’s doing.

        Even here in Asheville, Leftists put up billboard in downtown Asheville of former President Bush in a sniper’s cross-hairs. To lay it at Trump’s feet, as YOU pointed out, is absurd.

        • NFB

          Most of those attacks were very much related to the person’s political ideology.

          In your own post you stated: “People have been getting hurt, but it’s due to violence by Leftists attacking anyone that has an opinion different than their own.”

          With that statement you lay the blame to political violence at the feet of “leftists.” I merely point out that there is plenty of violence committed in this country by rightists.

          The comment in the article you bemoan does not threaten violence anyway. It predicts violence and stresses, rightly or wrongly, that Rep. McHenrey’s silence in the matter will be part of the cause.

          Still, I find it interesting that someone who talked about living in “enemy territory” and “striking a blow from the inside” should be so incensed about what others have to say about violence.

  2. Don Yelton

    Well it seems that most people ignore the metals etc in the solar panels. The car batteries are also not for ever and has other toxic materials. Global Warming has changed to Climate Change. Thanks God it has changed. Any you climatologist been to Gray Fossil Museum or to Saltville Virginia. How about the museum in South Dakota where the woolly mammoths died. Climate changes all of the time. I note that no one talks about the south pole not thawing but growing. Ever hear of the hockey stick. We need to worry about the intellectual climate and not Mann-made Global Warming.

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