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PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s Washington County town hall on Thursday, Jan. 12, was mostly civil, covering roads and bridges, social media and the war in Ukraine, save one woman’s outburst that saddled her with a few misdemeanors.

After she shouted questions out of turn during the public Q&A at the Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center in Beaverton — related to how much money of the Inflation Reduction Act was going to China, alluding to a laptop belonging to President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and calling Wyden a “Chinese operative” — the woman was escorted from the gymnasium.

A woman is escorted out of Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center in Beaverton by law enforcement after confronting Sen. Ron Wyden during a town hall meeting
A woman is escorted out of Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center in Beaverton by law enforcement after confronting Sen. Ron Wyden during a town hall meeting (PMG Photo: Jaime Valdez)

After the meeting, law enforcement said she was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct and trespassing. The age and city of residence of the woman was not immediately available.

After the 10-minute interruption, Wyden covered a list of topics posed by the audience, including infrastructure, social media regulation and Russia’s war in Ukraine. Wyden hosts town halls in each county or Oregon, at least once per year.

Going into 2023, Wyden said his top priorities as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee are to fight against cuts to Social Security and Medicare; address fairness in tax regulation; and support penalties for large pharmaceutical companies that price gouge for medications.

On roads and bridges, Wyden said the Infrastructure Investment Act will be a “big shot in the arm” for Oregon, as far as transportation and power resiliency go.

“I think it will be a lifeline for Washington County, because … you have traffic jams everywhere,” Wyden said. “We are going to need to make sure to have big league quality of life, you can’t have little league infrastructure.”

Other questions centered around mental health, especially related to social media.

Lawsuits have been waged across the country, including earlier this week in Seattle Public Schools, alleging that social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are causing a mental health crisis in youths.

The 27-year senator said he joined the Senate when only one senator knew how to use a computer, and was there to help write many of the ground rules for social media decades ago.

Section 230 in U.S. Code states that media platforms do not have responsibility for what people post on their website. Rather, that responsibility lies with the person posting the information, including if it is libelous, inaccurate or inflammatory.

Wyden said he thought the responsibility for social media posts should continue to reside with the poster, and not the platform, in part because the online conglomerates have enough money to not learn from their consequences.

“I think it is undoable from the standpoint there is no way (media platforms) can be on top of all those posts” to have platforms be responsible, Wyden said of the decades old code. “Individual responsibility is still the best way to go. The big guys are always going to have enough money to buy their way out of the system.”

Wyden also said the Russian war in Ukraine, though receiving fewer front page headlines than when it began in February 2022, is still on the forefront of national security concerns.

Wyden is on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine during the town hall.

“Putin is KGB all the freaking way,” he said. “My own take is he still has a vision for a broader old Soviet Union, mother Russian and the like. He didn’t expect this. … He thought he would just waltz into Ukraine and everybody would be sitting there with Russian flags… . He didn’t account for the fact that around the world freedom is breaking out and people are not just willing to accept an autocrat pushing them around.

“Now we’ve got to protect our strategic military interests. … I think this is something we need to stand strong on and we need to be committed on.”

On a more local scale, Wyden said that, while he has no control over local and state police officers tackling homelessness and thefts, the feds can address gangs and guns. He added that federal government already has sent billions in recent years to states in an attempt to address the housing and homelessness crisis.

“But that’s nowhere near all that needs to be done,” Wyden continued.

Still, he said, local patrols are enforced at the local level.