Kevin Smith, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, was booed on Sunday while answering questions about whether he supports a proposal to dismantle the FBI or label the bureau a terrorist organization.
The incident occurred during a political debate presented Sunday afternoon by the Government Integrity Project, according to the NH Journal news site.
Smith, a former member of New Hampshire’s House of Representatives, was one of three Republicans who participated in the debate. Smith, Don Bolduc and Bruce Fenton, the three debate participants, are among the 11 candidates running in New Hampshire’s Republican primary election on September 13. They are campaigning to replace Senator Maggie Hassan , a Democrat running for her second term in office.
Nearly two hours into the debate, investigative reporter and debate moderator Heather Mullins referenced a recent article published by The Epoch Times in which writer Victor Davis Hanson proposed dismantling the FBI and having other U.S. investigative agencies absorb its role. The article was published days after FBI agents searched the Mar-a-Lago residence of former President Donald Trump , who has referred to the raid as a “witch hunt” and a “sneak attack on democracy.”
Mullins asked Smith, Bolduc and Fenton if they support Hanson’s recommendation.
While Bolduc said he agreed “100 percent,” and Fenton said the FBI should be abolished and replaced “with nothing,” Smith said it is the leadership at the FBI that is in need of review.
“It’s the senior levels of the FBI that need to be investigated here. We do have fine, very good men and women agents at much lower levels that just want to do their jobs and don’t want to work in a politicized agency,” Smith said as people in the audience clapped. “You have to have a total top-to-bottom changeover in leadership.”
Mullins then asked Smith if he supports the idea of the FBI being labeled a terrorist organization. Smith said he does not.
“I believe, at its core, it’s a good institution,” he said as members of the audience began booing. He said he believes there are “fine men and women in that institution who want to do their jobs who do want to protect us.”
Smith said he “always” has been “a big supporter of law enforcement” at the local, state and federal levels.
“We have some bad actors right now in these agencies. And those bad actors need to be weeded out, they need to be investigated and they need to be thrown out,” he said. “But I don’t think we have to get rid of the whole thing, kit and caboodle.”
Bolduc also refused to say he would identify the FBI as a terrorist organization.
“I’m not going to go as far as designating them a terrorist organization, no,” he said. As he went on to say Congress has “every right” to remove people in leadership positions at investigative agencies, Smith interjected to point out that Bolduc was not booed for his response.
“I want to note—Don supporters booed me on that, but he didn’t get booed on it,” Smith said. Both he and Bolduc laughed, as did some people in the audience.
Newsweek reached out to Smith’s campaign for further comment.