Bozeman Town Hall Meeting

Account describes President Obama's August 2009 town hall meeting in Montana?

Claim:   Account describes President Obama’s August 2009 town hall meeting in Montana.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, August 2009]

By now you have probably heard that President Obama came to Montana last Friday. However, there are many things that the major news has not covered. I feel that since Bill and I live here and we were at the airport on Friday I should share some facts with you. Whatever you decide to do with the information is up to you. If you chose to share this email with others I do ask that you DELETE my email address before you forward this on.

On Wednesday, August 5th it was announced locally that the President would be coming here. There are many groups here that are against his healthcare and huge spending so those groups began talking and deciding on what they were going to do. The White House would not release ANY details other than the date.

On about Tuesday Bill found out that they would be holding the “Town Hall” at the airport. (This is only because Bill knows EVERYONE at the airport) Our airport is actually located outside of Belgrade (tiny town) in a very remote location. Nothing is around there. They chose to use a hangar that is the most remotely located hangar. You could not pick a more remote location, and you can not get to it easily. It is totally secluded from the public.

FYI: We have many areas in Belgrade and Bozeman which could have held a large amount of folks with sufficient parking. (gymnasiums/auditoriums). All of which have chairs and tables, and would not have to be SHIPPED IN!! $$$$$

During the week, cargo by the TONS was being shipped in constantly. Airport employees could not believe how it just kept coming. Though it was our President coming several expressed how excessive it was, especially during a recession. $$$$$

Late Tuesday/early Wednesday the 12th, they said that tickets would be handed out on Thursday 9am at two locations and the president would be arriving around 12:30 Friday.

Thursday morning about 600 tickets were passed out. However, 1500 were printed at a Local printing shop per White House request. Hmmmm….. 900 tickets just DISAPPEARED.

This same morning someone called into the radio from the local UPS branch and said that THOUSANDS of Dollars of Lobster were shipped in for Obama. Montana

has some of the best beef in the nation!!! And it would have been really wonderful to help out the local economy. Anyone heard of the Recession?? Just think… with all of the traveling the White House is doing. $$$$$ One can only imagine what else we are paying for.

On Friday Bill and I got out to the airport about 10:45am. The groups that wanted to protest Obama’s spending and healthcare had gotten a permit to protest and that area was roped off. But that was not to be. A large bus carrying SEIU (Service Employees International Union) members drove up onto the area (illegal)and unloaded right there. It was quite a commotion and there were specifically 2 SEIU men trying to make trouble and start a fight. Police did get involved and arrested the one man but they said they did not have the manpower to remove the SEIU crowd.

The SEIU crowd was very organized and young. About 99% were under the age of 30 and they were not locals! They had bullhorns and PROFESSIONALLY made signs. Some even wore preprinted T-shirts. Oh, and Planned Parenthood folks were with them… professing abortion rights with their T-shirts and preprinted signs. (BTW, all these folks did have a permit to protest in ANOTHER area)

Those against healthcare/spending moved away from the SEIU crowd to avoid confrontation. They were orderly and respectful. Even though SEIU kept coming over and walking through, continuing to be very intimidating and aggressive at the direction of the one SEIU man.

So we had Montana folks from ALL OVER the state with their homemade signs and their DOGS with homemade signs. We had cowboys, nurses, doctors you name it. There was even a guy from Texas who had been driving through. He found out about the occasion, went to the store, made a sign, and came to protest.

If you are wondering about the press…. Well, all of the major networks were over by that remote hangar I mentioned. They were conveniently parked on the other side of the buildings FAR away. None of these crowds were even visible to them. I have my doubts that they knew anything about the crowds.

We did have some local news media around us from this state and Idaho. Speaking of the local media… they were invited. However, all questions were to be turned into the White House in advance of the event. Wouldn’t want anyone to have to think off the top of their head.

It was very obvious that it was meant to be totally controlled by the White House. Everything was orchestrated down to the last detail to make it appear that Montana is just crazy for Obama and government healthcare. Even those people that talked about their insurance woes….. the White House called our local HRDC (Human Resource and Development Committee) and asked for names. Then the White House asked those folks to come. Smoke and mirrors… EVERYTHING was staged!!!!!!!!!!!

I am very dismayed about what I learned about our current White House. The amount of control and manipulation was unbelievable. I felt I was not living in the United States of America, more like the USSR!! I was physically nauseous. Bill and I have been around when Presidents or Heads of State visit. It has NEVER been like this. I am truly very frightened for our country. America needs your prayers and your voices. If you care about our country please get involved. Know the issues. And let Congress hear your voices again and again!! If they are willing to put forth so much effort to BULLY a small town one can only imagine what is going on in Washington DC. Scary!!

Bozeman, Montana


Origins:   On Friday, 14 August 2009, President Obama held a town hall meeting in Bozeman, Montana, to discuss his proposed health care reforms. That town hall meeting was one of three that week, the other two being held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire (Aug. 11), and Grand Junction, Colorado (Aug. 15).

At this time, the author of the e-mailed account purporting to have been written by someone who attended the town hall meeting in Bozeman is unknown. Some versions are signed “Kathy” and mention that the writer’s husband’s name is Bill, but others are signed “Sue” and identify the husband as Joe. Some additionally describe the husband as a former Navy pilot and Delta Airlines captain. Many are prefaced by claims that the author is a friend who lives in Montana, or that she is the wife of a cousin.

Puzzlingly, though we combed through the hundreds of copies of this piece we received, none of those e-mail forwards provided a surname for Kathy/Bill or Sue/Joe (although a concatenation of the name and location listed at the end has misled some to believe the writer is named Kathy Bozeman). In just about every other case we’ve tackled where e-mailed eyewitness accounts have gone viral, at least a handful of the earliest forwards provided clues to the surname of the sender, if not the sender’s actual name.

Questions of authorship aside, the account asserts four primary criticisms: That thousands of dollars worth of lobster was shipped in for the President, that the majority of tickets for the event were not distributed to the town’s citizens but instead were used to pack the hall with Obama supporters, that the media did not cover the protests taking place outside the meeting, and that there was a dust-up between two groups of protesters, resulting in the arrest of one person.

Let’s start with the lobsters. The whole of that claim arises from the e-mail, which states: “This same morning someone called into the radio from the local UPS branch and said that THOUSANDS of Dollars of Lobster were shipped in for Obama.” We looked at numerous news accounts about the event (far, far more than are listed in the Sources section at the end of this article) and failed to find any mention of lobsters (shipped in or otherwise) in any of them, or of staffers and/or town hall attendees chowing down on lobster dinners.

Regarding the distribution of tickets for the event, most press accounts seem to agree there were 1,300 ticket-holders in attendance at the Bozeman town hall meeting held in a hangar at the airport. Many news articles mention 700 tickets having been handed out (a limit of two to a family) at Bozeman’s city hall, and some mention an additional 150 having been distributed on the same basis at the city hall in the nearby small town of Belgrade. According to the Big Sky Weekly, for example: “The vast majority of tickets were general admission (split roughly 80/20 between Bozeman and Belgrade respectively, based on their populations). Tickets were limited to two per person and were distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at Bozeman City Hall and Belgrade City Hall. The remaining tickets were distributed by the White House to elected officials and community leaders.”

If the reported attendance figures are accurate, they would suggest that about 450 tickets were given out through means other than first-come, first-served public distribution, more than the “few” mentioned in other press accounts (e.g., “A few tickets were distributed by the White House to elected officials, community leaders and local supporters” [Associated Press] and “the state’s two Democratic U.S. senators each … said they had a ‘handful’ of tickets to hand out to friends and supporters” [Billings Gazette]), but less than the “majority” claimed in the e-mail.

(While the e-mail asserts 1,500 tickets were printed, press accounts agree there were 1,300 ticket-holding attendees. It’s worth noting that organizers of events for which no admission fees are charged often print extra tickets to allow for factors such as spoilage, changes in venue capacity, no-shows, etc.).

Away from the hangar that housed the meeting, rallies hosted by various groups were held. Some of these protests were well organized, with supporters having been bused in and armed with professionally-rendered signs, and others weren’t. They were not ignored by the press, though (e.g., a Billings Gazette article covered the protests, as did television station KULR in the video linked below), albeit the focus of the journalists in attendance that day was upon the questions being put to the President in the meeting and how he was handling them rather than whatever those not actually part of the town hall meeting were getting up to in a nearby field:

As to how the protesters behaved, various groups shook signs and shouted at one another. There were no reports of violence, although police did arrest one man for disorderly conduct. The unnamed man was released later that afternoon.

Regarding the e-mail’s suggestion that law enforcement was ineffective in controlling the protesters (“Police did get involved and arrested the one man but they said they did not have the manpower to remove the SEIU crowd”), at the end of the video linked to above, KULR reporter Nick Lough (who was on the scene during the demonstrations) says: “Bozeman police, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department, and the Montana Highway Patrol were all within a few yards of the protesters just to make sure nothing grew too out of control.”

Barbara “controlled response” Mikkelson

Last updated:   23 August 2009


    Bell, Laura.   “The President’s Town Hall Meeting.”

    20 August 2009.

    Dennison, Mike.   “Crowd Gathers Early for Obama Montana Visit.”

    Billings Gazette.   14 August 2009.

    Johnson, Charles.   “Demonstrators Have Field Day Near Airport.”

    Billings Gazette.   14 August 2009.

    Lough, Nick.   “Demonstrators Outside Obama Town Hall.”

    KULR-TV [Billings, MT].   14 August 2009.

    Mayrer, Jessica.   “Civil Discourse.”

    Bozeman Daily Chronicle.   15 August 2009.

    Person, Daniel.   “Obama to Talk Health Care at Airport Friday.”

    Bozeman Daily Chronicle.   12 August 2009.

    Schontzler, Gail.   “It’s Showtime.”

    Bozeman Daily Chronicle.   14 August 2009.

    Sidoti, Liz.   “Civil Exchanges at Obama’s Health Care Forum.”

    The Star-Ledger.   15 August 2009   (p. A3).

    Associated Press.   “Good Manners in Obama’s Montana Audience.”

    14 August 2009.