Sen. Cory Gardner says racists should “go back into their cave” at town hall meeting

Hundreds of angry voters greeted Sen. Cory Gardner in Greeley.

Senator Cory Gardner introduces  U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman as the victor at the 2016 GOP watch party at the Double Tree Hotel in Greenwood Village on Nov. 8, 2016.  (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)

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Senator Cory Gardner introduces U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman as the victor at the 2016 GOP watch party at the Double Tree Hotel in Greenwood Village on Nov. 8, 2016. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite) election; republican; campaign; vote; voting; politics; colorado; copolitics; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado;
Sen. Cory Gardner, pictured here at the 2016 GOP election night watch party, has three scheduled public town hall appearances scheduled for Tuesday. (Jessica Taves/For Denverite)

A smiling Republican Sen. Cory Gardner faced a barrage of harsh criticism in a series of town hall meetings Tuesday in Colorado.

Hundreds of angry voters greeted the GOP senator in Greeley. He also held rowdy town hall meetings in Colorado Springs and Lakewood, a suburb of Denver.

“Look, I try to do right by the state of Colorado,” Gardner said to a chorus of boos in Greeley.

Gardner said he invited disagreements, but at times he was unable to speak above shouted obscenities from the crowd.
Gardner started his Greeley meeting by denouncing racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Gardner said the racists should “go back into their cave.”

The crowd applauded. But the town hall meeting turned nasty very quickly.

Voters asked Gardner to defend a long list of decisions by President Donald Trump, from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord to appointing a school-choice supporter as secretary of education.

Health care was top on the minds of most at the town halls. Gardner asked the Greeley crowd how many supported single-payer health care, and an overwhelming majority in the high-school auditorium raised their hands.

Gardner said he fundamentally disagrees with single-payer health care, which he called unsustainably expensive, saying the better health care solution is an improved economy with more people getting health care through an employer plan. The skeptical crowd repeatedly booed him.

“This was so partisan, what you came up with,” said town-hall commenter Scott McLean of Greeley, 63.

Gardner replied that the Senate would resume health-care discussions in the fall. “I hope that we’ll have everybody at the table going forward,” he said.

The crowd scoffed, some shouting additional profanities as Gardner stood without responding to the jeers.

Gardner tried to show the Greeley crowd graphs showing increased government spending on health care. The crowd responded with boos and angry shouts.

“What happens when this spending continues going up and we have no way to pay for it?” Gardner asked, his voice barely audible over a jeering crowd.

“Even if we disagree, we cannot continue shouting each other down in this country,” he said.

Just a couple people appeared to hear the senator, applauding quietly from their seats.