A Republican House member shouted “You lie” during President Obama’s health care speech to Congress on Wednesday, and members of both parties condemned the heckling.
After the speech, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson issued a statement apologizing for his outburst. “This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill,” the statement said. “While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” Wilson also called the White House to apologize and spoke with Obama’s Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, who accepted the apology on the president’s behalf, according to a senior administration official. “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” Emanuel said to Wilson, according to the official. “That was the point of the president’s speech.” The outburst came when Obama denied that proposed health care legislation would provide free health coverage for illegal immigrants. Immediately, Wilson shouted, “You lie!” Watch the outburst and the chamber’s response The outburst caused Obama to stop and look toward the heckler. “That’s not true,” the president responded. Fact check: Will reform plan cover illegal immigrants Behind him, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appeared shocked and turned toward the outburst as Vice President Joe Biden looked down and shook his head. Loud boos echoed through the chamber immediately after the outburst. While it was the most attention-getting, Wilson’s shout wasn’t the only demonstration of displeasure made by Republicans during the speech. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, wore a sign around his neck that said, “WHAT BILL” And when Obama asked Republicans to share their health reform ideas with him, a small group raised up a stack of papers above their heads.
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After the speech, Republican Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate defeated by Obama last year, called Wilson’s outburst “totally disrespectful” and said he should apologize. Appearing on CNN’s “Larry King Live,” he said there was “no place for it in that setting or any other and he should apologize immediately.” Other Republicans also criticized Wilson, along with the expected Democratic condemnation. “It was crude and disrespectful,” said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a top Senate Democrat. “I think the person who said it will pay a price.” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, called on Wilson to go to the floor Thursday and apologize. She said Wilson’s comment and other GOP tactics “strike me as odd. … The minority leader has to get control of his conference.” But Jackson Lee described Wilson as “a likeable guy, seemingly reserved” and said it was “rather surprising” when saw who shouted the comment. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, echoed the sentiment. “I was always taught that the first sign of a good education is good manners. I think that what we saw tonight was really bad manners,” he said. “And, having a spirited debate is one thing, exercising bad manners is another. That was beyond the pale — and I would hope that he would publicly apologize on that same floor to the president of the United States for that insult.” Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan and ranking Republican on the Ways & Means Committee, told CNN Radio he wasn’t happy with the outburst. “I don’t advise that. … I think it’s important to listen as respectfully as possible,” he said. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, also denounced the heckling. “Certainly, I respect the office of the president, and I think that’s not the kind of thing that is appropriate in that kind of setting especially,” he said. “I don’t know who said it, but my sense is most people don’t think it was a good idea it occurred. And I happen to be one of those.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, told CNN affiliate WIS-TV in Columbia that he, too, was disappointed. “The president’s combative tone did not justify a member of Congress shouting out, ‘You lie,’ ” said Graham. “Our nation’s president deserves to be treated with respect. It was an inappropriate remark, and I am glad an apology has been made.” South Carolina Democratic Party Chair Carol Fowler took it further. “Once again a South Carolina Republican has embarrassed our state,” Fowler’s office said in a statement that referred to S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford’s extramarital affair. “Never has any member of Congress shown such disrespect for the president during a speech,” Fowler wrote. “One would think that as a member of the military, Joe Wilson would have more respect and patriotism than he displayed tonight. When Congressman Wilson insulted President Obama, he also insulted the American public. Joe Wilson is a poor example of a statesman and an American. He owes an apology to the president and the American people.” The Democrat hoping to unseat Wilson in next year’s midterm elections also quickly seized on the Republican’s outburst. “Rep. Wilson’s behavior tonight exemplifies everything that is wrong in Washington,” Democrat Rob Miller said in a statement provided to CNN. “Instead of engaging in childish name-calling and disrespecting our commander-in-chief, Joe Wilson should be working towards a bipartisan solution that makes quality, affordable health care available to each and every South Carolinian.” After the speech, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, tweeted that it was the “biggest” disappointment of the evening.
“Biggest disappointmnt of evening, the total lack of respect shown by one member for the President,” she wrote. “Never acceptable to behave like a jerk.” Wilson, who has served five terms, represents the state’s 2nd congressional district, which includes the state capital, Columbia, and stretches to Beaufort and Hilton Head Island.