Beto O’Rourke swears at Greg Abbott supporter who heckled him over Uvalde shooting

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks at a town hall over the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde and gun reform, in Dallas on June 1, 2022. (Shelby Tauber For The Texas Tribune, Shelby Tauber For The Texas Tribune)

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Beto O’Rourke swears at Greg Abbott supporter who heckled him at a town hall event in Mineral Wells. Credit: Beto O'Rourke campaign

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Beto O’Rourke confronted a heckler Wednesday at a campaign event who laughed while he was talking about the Uvalde school shooting, telling the person, “It may be funny to you, motherfucker, but it is not funny to me.”

The moment, which spread quickly online afterward, came as the Democratic gubernatorial challenger was hosting an evening town hall in Mineral Wells. On live broadcasts of the event, loud laughing could be heard as O’Rourke described the impact of AR-15s, dropping to a knee to emphasize what he said were the wartime capabilities of the firearm.

O’Rourke’s admonishment of the person drew sustained applause and cheers from the crowd. He quickly moved on in his stump speech, talking about wanting to keep kids safe as the school year begins.

It is unclear who exactly was laughing, but tweets from the event showed there was a group of protesters present holding campaign signs for Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. On one live broadcast, the camera panned to the group after O’Rourke’s response and showed one of them laughing.

“Nothing more serious to me than getting justice for the families in Uvalde and stopping this from ever happening again,” O’Rourke tweeted afterward.

It was not the first time O’Rourke has addressed heckling at an event while discussing gun violence. He responded less explicitly last month in Snyder, telling the person, “Might be funny to you. It isn’t to me.”

O’Rourke is on a 49-day tour of the state, and Abbott’s campaign has been organizing protests at O’Rourke stops. That has led to some tense moments — as well as some cordial moments between O’Rourke and Republicans who have shown up. He has made multiple social media posts throughout the tour showing off interactions with people who have attended the events wearing Republican gear.

Last month, Abbott’s campaign cautioned protesters against giving O’Rourke the opportunity for such photo ops. Abbott’s director of grassroots engagement, Rhonda Anderson, sent an email to GOP activists telling them “not [to] go inside or talk to Beto if wearing or carrying any Abbott gear.”

“What’s been happening is he is snapping pictures with our supporters and then posting saying he’s converting them to support him,” Anderson wrote.

Not every event has been conciliatory, though. Video posted on social media showed O’Rourke leaving an event Sunday in Rockdale surrounded by police officers as he made his way through a rowdy crowd of protesters, some waving Abbott signs.

The local newspaper, the Rockdale Reporter, later wrote O’Rourke was “the first Texas gubernatorial candidate to visit Rockdale since the late 1960s.”

In another clip that has gotten wide attention online, a protester who was being removed from an O’Rourke event in Midland last month swatted a phone out of the hand of O’Rourke aide Cynthia Cano. She had been responding to another protester being disruptive with multiple attendees, according to an O’Rourke spokesperson, Chris Evans. Midland police who were on site handcuffed that protester, but no one decided to press charges, Evans said.

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