ST. GEORGE – Those who watched a congressional candidate debate held last month at Dixie State University witnessed it take an odd turn when a man walked on stage and hijacked one of the candidate’s microphones.
Corbin McMillen, of Carmichael, California, briefly took over Republican incumbent Congressman Chris Stewart’s microphone during his Sept. 17 debate with Democratic challenger Shireen Ghorbani.
“Vaccines cause autism,” McMillen said twice before being escorted off stage by police and debate staff. He was subsequently arrested by Dixie State University Police and charged with a class B misdemeanor for disrupting a public meeting.
But what happened after that?
In the wake of McMillen’s action, the Utah Debate Commission said it would – and did – beef up security for the next scheduled debate between senatorial candidates Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Jenny Wilson.
That debate, held Tuesday at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, took place without incident but not without the influence of event organizers.
St. George News reporter Jeff Richards, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s debate, said audience members were firmly instructed about proper decorum before the debate began, and the reminder clearly worked.
“You could’ve heard a pin drop in there,” Richards said, adding that the silence made it often hard to tell how the candidates’ comments were received by audience members.
Only at the end of the debate, at moderator Bruce Lindsay’s cue, did they finally break into a hearty round of applause for both candidates, Richards said.
As for McMillen, he pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge in St. George Justice Court Oct. 1.
Judge Ronald Reid handed down a suspended jail sentence of 180 days, a fine of $680 and 12 months probation.
McMillen’s social media accounts show posts supporting anti-vaccination views. Some commenters thanked McMillen for what he did at the debate and supporting his claim that vaccines are connection to autism.
Others questioned McMillen’s actions and wondered what he hoped to accomplish by hijacking a microphone.
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