U.S. senators have been holding town hall meetings in their home states this week, and some have been facing very pointed questions from their constituents.
And Republican Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton has arguably been getting hit hardest. He fielded a question from a seven-year-old who expressed fear that President Donald Trump will “delete” PBS Kids in order to fund his border wall, as reported by The Washington Post.
Young Toby Smith took the microphone at Cotton’s town hall at the Springfield High School auditorium on Tuesday, and criticized the president for his anti-immigration policies.
“Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important to people who are in Arkansas who like Mexicans,” Smith said. “He is deleting all the parks and PBS Kids just to make a wall,” Toby said, “and he shouldn’t do that. He shouldn’t do all that stuff just for the wall.”
“You better listen to the next generation,” one constituent could be heard shouting over the noise of the crowd.
Cotton responded saying that he wants Mexico to be “a healthy, strong partner,” and Trump’s proposed border wall will help to achieve that goal. “We want to help them with their problems,” he said. “But we also have to protect our own citizens.”
The Trump administration is preparing to propose a plan which would privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds entities like PBS and NPR, The Hill reported last month. The plan would also eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
PBS chief Paula Kerger attempted to assuage fears that federal funding cuts could affect the network at the Television Critics Association press tour in January. “We are spending time talking to as many people as we can, but particularly legislators,” she said. “On both sides of the aisle, and in the Senate and the House.”
Kerger also pointed out that federal funding only accounts for about 15 percent of PBS’s overall budget. But cuts could affect some of the network’s member stations — particularly those in more rural areas — more than others.
“Our plan over these next months, over these next years is to do the job that the public expects of us.”
Young Smith’s plea is far from the first time someone has campaigned to keep PBS on the air. Mr. Rogers famously testified to congress back in 1969. Watch his testimony — which has been widely shared on social media in reaction to Trump’s threat to cut funding — here.