A South Carolina Republican has apologized for yelling “You lie!” during President Obama’s health care speech.
Joe Wilson, elected in 2001 to represent a district that stretches from Columbia to Hilton Head, shouted the impertinent remark when the president said current health care legislation would not extend benefits to illegal immigrants.
Obama briefly paused, pointed and glared in Wilson’s direction and said, “That’s not true.”
Wilson, little known before now, was rebuked by Republicans and Democrats alike for breaking with decades of decorum that dictate civility when a president addresses the joint chambers of Congress. His office reportedly received hundreds of calls and his Web site crashed.
In an interview with CNN, Arizona Sen. John McCain urged his GOP colleague to apologize. “Totally disrespectful,” McCain said.
Wilson later issued this statement: “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. 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 said he called the White House and conveyed his apology to Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, a Columbia Democrat, apparently was in no mood immediately to forgive.
He said Wilson had embarrassed the state and “gone even lower” than Gov. Mark Sanford, who disappeared this summer then later surfaced to admit that he was in Argentina having an extramarital affair.
“Joe Wilson demonstrated his lack of manners by insulting the president on the floor of Congress,” Clyburn was widely quoted as saying. “It is the Joe Wilsons of the world that have drummed up this kind of poisonous climate that promotes disrespect rather than dialogue on difficult issues.”
Fact Check: HR 3200, the bill being debated in the House, explicitly prohibits federally subsidized coverage for illegal immigrants.