Rep. Dean Phillips’s (D-MN) first town hall quickly went off the rails after an audience member accused the congressman of “gaslighting” her.
The incident occurred during a remote town hall that Phillips hosted for constituents over Zoom. A participant, identified as “Elizabeth,” accused Phillips of being dismissive of her concerns. In response to her accusations, Phillips told her that she was “incoherent” and “insulting.”
Elizabeth’s accusations of Phillips engaging in gaslighting quickly spread throughout the virtual chamber, and she was backed up by dozens of other constituents. One constituent tweeted, “This was NOT a great first impression made…by our so-called representative at his TOWN HALL. He literally gaslit Elizabeth. Disrespectful, and totally improper for an elected official holding a *public* meeting.”
Phillips eventually acknowledged the backlash he had received and offered an apology. Through an official statement, Phillips stated that he was “sorry for the exchange and [he] takes responsibility for it.” He added that he takes all constituents’ thoughts and comments seriously and that he was “deeply sorry that [he] did not do as good a job as [he] should have.”
While his apology was well-received, the incident highlights a growing tension between progressive Democrats like Phillips and the constituents they are supposed to represent. Despite Phillips’s apology it is clear that, for some constituents, the damage had already been done. Moving forward, Phillips will have to take special care to ensure he avoids similar situations in the future.