Rep. Tim Murphy cancels Duquesne event citing plan ‘to disrupt the discussion’

Several people who gathered to see Murphy said they had no plans to be disruptive.

Sarah Anne Hughes
Sarah Anne Hughes

Updated 4:55 p.m.

At just after 2:30 p.m., about 10 people who had come to Duquesne’s campus to see Rep. Tim Murphy were outside the student union building.

The congressman’s visit had been canceled, so they decided to go inside and take a photo with the sign that said so.

Murphy, a Republican congressman who represents the southern Pittsburgh suburbs including Mt. Lebanon, was scheduled to discuss his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act. Instead, his office canceled shortly before the Tuesday event was set to begin.

“We were disappointed to learn that Congressman Murphy’s long-planned tour of the Duquesne University Psychology Department and discussion with students on his Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act had to be canceled today,” a Murphy spokeswoman wrote in a statement. “Duquesne staff brought to our attention at the last minute that organizations not affiliated with the university were planning to disrupt the discussion and campus security was unable to guarantee the safety of all involved.”

Bridget Fare-Obersteiner, a Duquesne spokeswoman, said in an email the university was “prepared to go forward with the event and to provide security, if the congressman’s office deemed it appropriate.”

Fare-Obersteiner said Duquesne had reached out to Murphy’s office to inform them that there had been social media chatter “that some individuals not associated with campus might be attending and asking questions unrelated to the topic of the congressman’s remarks.”

“As a courtesy, we informed the congressman’s office of this possibility, as we would do for any guest speaker,” she said.

At 9:34 this morning, Duquesne reached out to Murphy’s office to say the university’s public safety department “was able to rearrange our police force schedules to ensure there would be extra officers at the event, should they be needed due to any possible disruptions.”

Murphy’s team reached out to Duquesne at 11:47 a.m. to say the event needed to be postponed, she said.

“We have a state-certified, accredited police force who has successfully handled many high-profile events featuring prominent speakers,” Fare-Obersteiner said. “This was not an issue about safety, but rather, how disruptions would be handled should any occur.”

Those who came to see Murphy said they simply wanted to talk about healthcare, including the probable repeal of the Affordable Care Act. They had heard about the discussion in various ways, including through the Action Network.

Carol Baicker-McKee, one of Murphy’s constituents, cited the congressman’s work on mental health and said the repeal of the ACA would “throw it all away.”

“He knows better,” said Baicker-McKee, who has a PhD in clinical psychology. “If he won’t fight to tweak the ACA so that it works for people with chronic health conditions … nobody will. … It breaks my heart that he would throw people under the bus like that.”

Murphy recently told Politico that he supports repealing the ACA, but wants to keep protections for people with mental illnesses.

Hazel Cope, a retired nurse from Mt. Lebanon who got her degree from Duquesne, said she was “determined to be polite.”

“It took a big chunk of my day to take the T in and climb up the hills,” Cope said. “It’s infuriating.”

Cope said she feels “disenfranchised.”

“We have Toomey who won’t talk to us. We have Murphy who’s in a little cocoon,” she said, referencing the gerrymandering of District 18.

One woman who said she voted for Murphy called him the “poster child of the South Hills,” adding that people didn’t seem to mind when he ran unopposed.

That appears to be different now.