Texas Republican Joe Barton
Texas congressman Joe Barton told an audience member to shut up.Reuters

A Republican representative told an audience member to "shut up" during a town hall question on women's rights.

Joe Barton, a GOP representative from Texas, suggested the topic of violence against women was a federal, rather than state, issue which prompted members of the audience in Navarro County to shout out in response.

Barton said in comments carried by the Dallas News: "On the first bill that I voted against, that's a true statement, and I voted against it because I think that's a state issue, not a federal issue."

One audience member shouted: "That is an issue that impacts everyone, everywhere, not only in this country but everywhere."

The outburst prompted Barton to point at the audience member and say: "You, you sir! Shut up."

His comment did not go down well with the audience, with another person shouting out: "What is that? You don't tell anybody to shut up. You work for us."

Defending his dismissive comment, Barton told The Huffington Post: "You must be recognised in order to speak."

"These are unscripted live meetings. Over the weekend in Frost, one gentlemen continued to speak over myself and many others who were seeking recognition in orderly fashion."

However, Barton maintained he had returned to the man he told to "shut up" later on in the session.

"I did, however, return to him for the last question of the meeting and allow him the opportunity to voice his concerns," he explained.

Barton has also faced criticism during appearances at other town halls, with previous confrontations prompting one other town hall to be relocated to avoid protesters demonstrating against the GOP's proposed Obamacare replacement.