"Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important": Sen. Tom Cotton faces angry constituents at town hall meeting

The trend of Republican legislators receiving grief from their constituents continues with Tom Cotton

By Matthew Rozsa
Published February 23, 2017 12:50PM (EST)
 (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

On Wednesday night, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, joined the growing list of Republican legislators who have faced hostility from their constituents when returning for town hall meetings.

Perhaps the most memorable moment was Cotton's exchange with a 7-year-old about President Donald Trump's proposed border wall.

"So Donald Trump thinks a wall is more important than kids' [unintelligible] and stuff, but for kids it's more important. Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who aren't Mexicans, like me and my grandma and all my people," asked 7-year-old Toby Smith. After a rousing applause, he continued, saying Trump is "deleting all the parts in PBS Kids just to make a wall. He shouldn't do that."

Smith's question referenced both allegations of racism in Trump's border wall pledge and concerns that Trump will cut funding to public television in order to pay for his proposed border wall.

"I just want to say that, whatever your background, whatever your heritage, whatever your race or ethnicity or religious belief, part of the fabric of America is that we're a melting pot and we are all one people," Cotton replied. "And we want Mexico to be a healthy strong partner. We want to help them to deal with the problems they've got with drug cartels and crime and grow their economy. And we also have to protect our own citizens from that. And that's where the wall comes in. So Toby you can still have one and have the other."

As Cotton responded, the crowd began to boo for his failure to address Smith's question about PBS funding.

On another occasion, a woman whose "family has been in the Ozarks since the 1800s" told Cotton that "aside from inheriting their patriotism and their work ethic, I unfortunately inherited an incurable genetic connective tissue disorder. I qualify for Medicare but unfortunately it's useless for me, since only two of my doctors — who are the only doctors in over a 500 mile radius who are familiar with my condition — accept Medicare. Without the coverage for preexisting conditions, I will die. Will you commit to replacements in the same way that you have committed to the repeal?"

When Cotton seemingly tried to deflect by asking to take "a couple more" comments or questions on health care reform, the crowd burst into outraged jeering. Eventually Cotton replied by telling the woman, named Katie, that "what I am committed to is making sure that people with conditions as serious as yours, or young healthy people, all have access to affordable, quality, personalized care."

Another woman harshly criticized Cotton for sending her a generic form letter multiple times when she tried to contact his office.

"I have sent you one message after the other, sir, about our family," the woman said. "I live just down the road a few places from your office, and I have invited you into our home, and not a word, except a classic, regular letter sent."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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Donald Trump Tom Cotton