Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2009

Joe Wilson's Unwanted Outburst

"You lie!"

— Republican South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, interrupting President Obama's health care address before a joint session of Congress after he said the legislative reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants (Sept. 9)

Basic civility isn't usually an issue when the President speaks before a joint session of Congress. If lawmakers like what he's saying, they cheer. If they don't, they remain seated or grumble under their breath. Which is why Wilson's loud break in decorum caused such a stir and had members of his party denouncing the remark.

Shortly after the incident, Wilson called the White House to apologize and issued a statement calling his comments "inappropriate and regrettable." The next day, Obama publicly accepted his apology.

But it might have been too late for Wilson. Less than 24 hours later, his likely 2010 Democratic challenger had already raised more than $200,000, and within a few days, he was being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. Then again, in taking on Obama so directly, Wilson also became a hero to many conservative activists.