MADISON, Wis. (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan will be taking questions from Wisconsin voters during a nationally televised town hall meeting Monday night immediately following President Donald Trump’s address on Afghanistan.
Ryan had scheduled the event from his congressional district to be broadcast on CNN before Trump announced his speech to start at the same time. Ryan now will begin his event after the president talks.
CNN extended invitations to people from Ryan’s district and selected the questions that will be asked. That has led to criticism from Democrats who say the Republican Ryan has been hiding from Wisconsin voters since he hasn’t held a town hall open to everyone since October 2015.
Ryan’s Democratic challenger, Randy Bryce, said he did not receive a ticket to the event. Instead, he raised money to run a pair of television ads during the broadcast, including one where he poses three questions for Ryan to answer about health insurance, Trump and equal pay legislation.
Another Democrat whose congressional district is next to Ryan’s, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, planned to fact-check the entire town hall live on Twitter.
Pocan called the Ryan event a “stunt” and said in a fundraising email Monday that Ryan is “petrified” to take questions from his constituents.
Ryan has held numerous events in Wisconsin, but he’s only taken questions from the public in controlled environments such as private businesses.
Activists plan to rally outside Monday’s event to put pressure on Ryan to denounce Trump’s comments that “both sides” were to blame for violence at a white supremacists march in Virginia in which neo-Nazis and other right-wing groups clashed with counter-protesters. Trump said there were “very fine people” in each group.
Marina Dimitrijevic, executive director of Wisconsin Working Families Party, said in a statement that Ryan has ignored voters by refusing to hold a town hall for more than 650 days.
“Now that he’s finally addressing voters, we want to hear him denounce Trump’s racism and what he’s going to do to eradicate white supremacists in the Trump administration,” she said.
Ryan has denounced the violence and the white supremacists, but has not directly criticized Trump’s comments.
Prior to the broadcast, Ryan issued a statement that again didn’t explicitly criticize Trump’s handling of the white supremacist march in Virginia but said the nation’s leaders “have an obligation” to steer the country past “the passions of the moment.”
The Ryan town hall event is in Racine, near where global electronics giant Foxconn Technology Group has said it plans to build a factory that could employ thousands. Ryan helped in negotiations with the Taiwanese company and has joined with Trump and others in touting the news as transformational for Wisconsin’s economy.