HILLSBORO — Sen. Claire McCaskill admonished the noisy crowd at a town hall meeting on health care reform Tuesday, saying the people shouting out comments and nearly drowning her out were being rude.
About 1,500 people turned out for the sometimes boisterous meeting in Hillsboro, about 30 miles south of St. Louis. Shouts frequently disrupted the meeting, and one woman was removed from the gathering.
"I don't understand this rudeness," McCaskill told the crowd at one point. "I honestly don't get it."
Someone shouted out that they didn't trust McCaskill, a Democrat who was among the earliest supporters of President Barack Obama when he began his run for the White House.
"Beg your pardon ... you don't trust me?" McCaskill said. "I don't know what else I can do."
Many of the questions concerned health care for veterans and senior citizens. Others questioned whether the government would fund abortions or provide health care for illegal immigrants under any reform plans.
Mary Ann Fieser of Hillsboro said elected officials owe it to citizens to allow them a forum for showing their displeasure with the health care plan.
"If they don't let us vent our frustrations out, they will have a revolution," she said.
Obama himself spoke about his health care plan Tuesday to a friendly crowd of about 1,800 at a forum in New Hampshire, urging people to ignore scare tactics. His push came amid a string of disruptive town halls nationwide that have overshadowed his message and threatened to derail support in Congress.
Among the noisier meetings was one in suburban St. Louis last week, hosted by Democratic U.S. Rep. Russ Carnahan. Six people were arrested following a melee at the forum.
McCaskill hosted two meetings Monday in southeast Missouri — one at Kennett was generally friendly, one at Poplar Bluff proved unruly at times.
But the forum at Jefferson College on Tuesday was loud from the start.
"This really can't be about who is the loudest," McCaskill said.
She asked the crowd several times to "just give me a chance." Part of the forum was broadcast live, and McCaskill encouraged attendees to show good Missouri manners.
"I am so disappointed," she said at one point.
The hearing included a confrontation in the crowd, when a man approached 52-year-old Maxine Johnson of St. Louis and ripped her sign that showed a picture of Rosa Parks sitting on a bus that read, "First Lady of Civil Rights." The man was arrested on suspicion of assault; his name was not released. Johnson was led out of the auditorium but was not arrested.