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September 02, 2017

Report: Man arrested after going off script on immigration question during Toomey town hall

A Northampton man has been arrested for disrupting a televised town hall meeting with Republican Sen. Pat Toomey hosted by PBS39 earlier this week, according to Lehigh Valley Live.

Simon Radecki, 28, faces charges of disorderly conduct and disrupting a public meeting for the incident, the publication reported.

PBS39 hosted the live town hall in front of a 54-person audience, where 30 seats were filled based on a first-come, first-served basis. Toomey answered 20 questions during the hour-long event, one of which ended in Redecki being escorted from the meeting after he suggested that the senator's daughter, Bridget, was abducted.

Radecki, who was posing a question on immigration, took to Facebook afterward to share the full question that came around 40 minutes into PBS39's broadcast.

He wrote:

"Thank you, Senator Toomey, for coming here tonight to hear our questions. I’m assuming you’ve been busy thinking about how to answer our questions, so you haven’t seen the news. Do you know whether you daughter, Bridget, has been abducted?

Whatever you’re feeling right now, that’s what it feels like to have a daughter deported. Thousands of fathers here in the Valley that live with that fear every day. Their daughters have names, too. So here’s my question. Do you unequivocally denounce any attempt by the administration to reverse DACA, which would hang the threat of deportation over hundreds of thousands of children the same age as Bridget?"

Radecki also said that he attempted to "force Sen. Toomey into a place of empathy for the briefest moment" by asking the question. PBS39 later uploaded the recording of the town hall on its website, but muted Radecki.

"That's a ridiculous question," Toomey said as security escorted Radecki from the event.

McHugh apologized "for the disturbance."

More than 400 questions were submitted to be read during the event. The 20 were chosen by a collective effort between the station, Allentown Morning Call and Muhlenberg College's Institute of Public Opinion.

Dozens of protesters gathered outside the studio Thursday, criticizing the town hall for being "fake," according to the Associated Press. Toomey came under fire earlier this year for never having held an in-person town hall forum in Philadelphia. 

The station called the incident "entirely unacceptable" in a statement obtained by Lehigh Valley Live.

"We regret the statement made by the member of our studio audience during last night's broadcast of our town hall meeting with Senator Pat Toomey. PBS39 unequivocally condemns this inappropriate act, and we would like to express our heartfelt and sincere thoughts to the Toomey family at this time," Tim Fallon, CEO of PBS39, said in the statement. "Actions like these are entirely unacceptable and have no place in the constructive and meaningful civic dialogue that PBS39 seeks to promote in our community."

PBS39 outlines in its code of conduct that disruption "deemed compromising to the broadcast" results in the dismissal from such an event. The station told Lehigh Valley Live that each audience member agreed to the code of conduct prior to attending.

Radecki told that his arrest is “a startling reminder of what it’s like to live in the United States, or at least Pennsylvania, nowadays, where someone can literally be arrested and taken into custody for asking a pointed question.”