Rep. Tom Garrett (R., Va.) had heavy security at his town hall in Moneta, Va. on Tuesday night when it was revealed that he, his family, and his dog had received a series of "credible" death threats.
Garrett, a freshman congressman and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, took the stage at Eastlake Community Church, where the walls in the 300-seat room were lined with security–some in uniform and some wearing plain clothes, Politico reported.
Though the town hall proceeded without significant incident–one woman was removed by police for repeated disruptions–security personnel made their presence felt, approaching hecklers throughout the evening and standing watch at all entrances and exits. The high security presence, Garrett said later, was the result of threats that Capitol Police, state police, and intelligence officials "have deemed to be credible and real."
"It's nuts," Garrett said of the threats, which included the message, "This is how we're going to kill your wife."
Despite the intense and disturbing threats that Garrett has received, he and his chief of staff engaged in some gallows humor to take their minds off the situation.
"He read one of the more recent correspondences and called me the next day and goes, ‘Dude, I'm glad you're alive,'" Garrett recalled.
"I served in the military. I reconciled myself with the reality that one day I'm not going to be here," Garrett continued. "I don't want to die anytime soon. I got stuff left to do, I hope. But when you pull wives and children in, that's not cool."
Garrett is not the only Republican congressman facing an intensified environment, as lawmakers throughout the country are facing backlash at town halls in their home districts over the latest debate in Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Garrett supported the American Health Care Act at the last minute, but it is unclear whether the threats aimed at Garrett stemmed from his vote. In response to the threats, Garrett said he has no problem if protesters disagreed with his position on the health care bill, but added that threatening his family crossed the line.
"I don't have any problem with anybody who reaches a different policy conclusion based on the information they amalgamate and process," he said. "That dissent is American–praise God, we need that. That's what made us who we are."
"But when it's, ‘I'm going to kill you this way. Then, I'm going to kill your wife. This is what I'm going to do to your daughters' … Then you get a circumstance where there's an awful lot of security," Garrett said.
Garrett tweeted a screenshot of his Facebook page's inbox on Saturday showing one of the threats including homophobic and misogynist language from an individual who graphically wrote about how he would like to see the congressman die.
The tolerant and left and anonymous death threats. Notice the homophobic and misogyny he uses? pic.twitter.com/FYC1nWbhM1
— Tom Garrett (@GarrettforVA) May 7, 2017
The Charlottesville, Va. affiliate of Indivisible, an anti-Donald Trump group, mockingly tweeted about the security presence at Garrett's Tuesday town hall by saying they were there to protect the attendees from Garrett.
— Indivisible Cville (@indivisibleVA05) May 10, 2017