Utah County residents will get a chance this week to go to a town hall event hosted by U.S. Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah — but they won’t get to ask their congressman any questions.
The “mock town hall,” which will take place on Wednesday at the Provo Recreation Center, will not be an actual town hall but rather a staged event that will be filmed and used for campaign ads, according to a Facebook post by Curtis’ campaign.
“Please note that this is not an actual town hall but a campaign event we are using to collect footage for the campaign,” a Facebook event post said. “Your image will likely be used in a media spot.”
One person on Facebook wondered what exactly the mock town hall would consist of.
“Is this just a photo op?” he asked. “Or will there be meaningful discussion?”
The campaign responded, “This is just a film set for upcoming campaign videos,” adding that Curtis will release his town hall schedule soon.
Corey Norman, Curtis’ chief of staff and the former deputy mayor of Provo, said it is not uncommon for campaign advertisements to include staged elements.
“All of those (campaign ads people see) are likely to be staged or at least (be) trying to provide some context for voters to understand what the representative has done,” said Norman.
Norman said this is the first time the campaign has held a staged town hall for filming purposes. But, he added, “we’ve never had an aggressive presence on television. And this is the first time for us to do that.”
The footage and audio from Wednesday’s event will be used for a 60-second television ad and a radio spot, Norman said.
Although it is labeled as a mock event, some on Facebook said they found the Facebook event page misleading and, at first glance, thought it was for an actual town hall featuring engagement between Curtis and constituents.
“If this is a campaign ad, it seems really problematic to talk about it (and lead with it) as being a town hall,” one woman wrote in the public Facebook group Provo Forward. “I also personally find it problematic that Rep. Curtis is doing this now but not doing a real town hall in Provo for several weeks. That’s frustrating for constituents.”
According to Norman, Curtis has held 177 town halls in his first two years in office.
“That’s one of his strengths,” Norman said. “Messaging to voters and engaging with them directly.”
During a town hall in Springville on Aug. 30, Curtis spoke about climate change and how the U.S. can partner with other countries to lower global emissions and encourage natural gas as a replacement for coal.
Filming will begin around 11 a.m. and will last for about an hour, according to the campaign. Lunch will be provided to those in attendance. Anyone interested in participating can register on eventbrite.com.