msnbc.com
updated 2/25/2011 6:14:07 PM ET 2011-02-25T23:14:07

A Republican lawmaker in Athens, Ga., fielded a startling question by an audience member at a town hall meeting Tuesday, prompting national headlines as well as a Secret Service inquiry.

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According to the Athens Banner-Herald, which first reported the incident, a person in the audience at a town hall hosted by GOP Rep. Paul Broun of Georgia asked “Who is going to shoot Obama?” The question — which was difficult for some to hear — was greeted with laughter.

Broun did not respond directly to the question, instead changing the subject to the issue of the Obama-backed health care bill that passed last year.

“The thing is, I know there’s a lot of frustration with this president,” Broun said, per the Banner-Herald. “We’re going to have an election next year. Hopefully, we’ll elect somebody that’s going to be a conservative, limited-government president that will take a smaller, who will sign a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

After the reports of the exchange, Broun confirmed the exchange with an elderly man and issued a statement Friday calling the question "abhorrent."

"I deeply regret that this incident happened," Broun said. "I condemn all statements — made in sincerity or jest — that threaten or suggest the use of violence against the president of the United States or any other public official. Such rhetoric cannot and will not be tolerated."  

In his statement, Broun said he "was stunned by the question and chose not to dignify it with a response."

"After the event, my office took action with the appropriate authorities," he said.

Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the elderly man who made the comment was questioned and is not considered a threat.

"We consider it a closed matter," Donovan said.

Broun, a doctor from Athens in his third congressional term, routinely calls Obama a socialist and said shortly after Obama's election in 2008 that he feared the president would establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.

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