U.S. Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) is under fire after reportedly comparing recent town hall meetings hosted by members of Congress to "the cleansing that the Orientals used to do," apparently referring to "struggle sessions" held mostly during the Chinese Cultural Revolution under Mao Zedong in which individuals were publicly humiliated and attacked by crowds.
"The amount of time that I have at home is minimal, I need to make sure that it's productive," Bost was quoted to have said in a meeting last Friday with the editorial board of The Southern Illinoisan newspaper. "You know the cleansing that the Orientals used to do where you'd put one person out in front and 900 people yell at them? That's not what we need. We need to have meetings with people that are productive."
The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus on Thursday took to Twitter to call Bost out for his use of the term "oriental."
NBC News reached out to Bost for comment, but did not receive a response. In a statement to CNN, Bost said he regretted his word choice. "I used a poor choice of words in describing the coordinated disruptions taking place across the country," he said. "While there was no malicious intent, I regret that my words may have distracted from an important point."
Some analysts say that Bost's comparison between recent town halls and Chinese Cultural Revolution-era struggle sessions, in which large groups of people were incited to publicly denounce intellectuals, business people, and those Mao declared enemies of the people, could weaken open debate.
"I worry about [Bost's] association of the angry crowds in GOP town halls with the political frenzy of the Chinese Cultural Revolution," lawyer and China analyst Rebecca Liao told NBC News. "You are not allowed to delegitimize cornerstones of the democratic process simply because you don't like the feedback. If Rep. Bost is afraid of un-American culture and a reprise of foreign political upheaval we took for granted would 'never happen here,' his first target should be Trumpism."
Since the start of the year, town halls have become a place of anger and frustration for many constituents who have attended the meetings to question lawmakers about the politics and policies out of Washington. Last month, following protests at several town halls where Republican lawmakers faced booing and questions about impeachment, Trump tweeted that the "so-called angry crowds" were "planned out by liberal activists."