WASHINGTON -- Rep. Chris Collins, the Clarence Republican who vowed only weeks ago to never hold a town hall meeting with his constituents, will appear at 9 p.m. Thursday on "The Messy Truth," a CNN town hall series.
Collins will be on the first half-hour of the show, said Michael McAdams, a spokesman for Collins.
Van Jones, a CNN commentator who used to work for President Barack Obama, hosts "The Messy Truth."
Kareem Abdul Jabbar will be the guest on the second half of the show.
"CNN reached out, and we thought it would be a unique opportunity for Congressman Collins to be asked questions about important issues in a substantive manner," McAdams said.
The congressman told WGRZ last month that he viewed town halls as "useless," adding: "What you get are demonstrators who come and shout you down and heckle you. They are not what you hope they would be, which is a give and take from people actually interested in getting some facts."
The event in New York is likely to be different, however. CNN has been holding a series of town halls with lawmakers and other political figures, and they have tended to be civil affairs.
Meantime, the left-leaning Jones has started his own town hall series, in which he asks questions, as do members of the studio audience. It is unclear exactly who will be in the audience for Collins' event in New York.
Jones' past guests have included comedians Bill Maher and Trevor Noah, as well as a family of Trump supporters from Pennsylvania.
While Collins has opposed holding a town hall meeting, by no means has he opposed appearing on CNN. He has appeared on that network and others dozens of times in the past year, first as a surrogate for the Donald Trump presidential campaign and more recently as a defender of the new president.
Collins' resistance to holding a town hall meeting in his district prompted protesters to target his local offices. It also led to an electronic billboard campaign aimed at getting him to hold a town hall meeting.
Michelle Schoeneman of East Aurora, who spearheaded that billboard campaign, was less than impressed with Collins' decision to do the CNN event rather than one where his constituents could easily question him.
"It's yet another opportunity for him to put himself in the national spotlight," Schoeneman said. "He wants us to hear and watch but not participate. So again he's trying to silence us."
But McAdams, the Collins spokesman, said the CNN town hall will have a much broader reach than any event he could have in the district.
"It will provide everyone in the district with the opportunity to hear and watch, not just those who are able to go to a town hall," McAdams said.
And Republican consultant Michael R. Caputo -- who spearheaded a drive to fund a pro-Collins billboard -- said: "CNN would do a great job of making sure the crowd is there to listen and not scream at him."
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