GOP lawmaker’s heckling draws fire, cash
Republican Congressman Joe Wilson hastily apologized for accusing President Obama of lying during the president’s prime-time TV speech, as Democrats began a fundraising effort to defeat him next year.
“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” Mr. Wilson, South Carolina Republican, said about an hour after shouting “You lie” during the president’s joint address to Congress on health-care reform Wednesday night.
Mr. Wilson said he still does not believe the president’s statement that his reform plan will not extend to illegal immigrants, “but my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”
Mr. Obama said he appreciated and accepted Mr. Wilson’s apology, which came via a phone call after the speech to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, a former member of the House.
“I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes,” Mr. Obama told reporters before the start of a Cabinet meeting Thursday. He also warned against “name-calling” and “the assumption of the worst in other people’s motives.”
He said Americans are “turned off” by hot rhetoric and prefer pragmatism.
Mr. Wilson further apologized Thursday for his outburst but defended his stance that the administration’s health-care reform plan will include coverage for illegal immigrants.
Mr. Wilson said two amendments in Capitol Hill legislation that required proof of legal U.S. residence for heath care coverage were voted down by Democrats. He also said party leaders told him to apologize to the White House.
• Obama prods Congress to pass health bill
• Analysis: Obama’s message to Congress based on hard lessons
• Pelosi: Obama’s speech an all-time great
• GOP: Our health plans ignored
• Obama seeks clarity, but doubts go on
• CURL: Obama’s cry aimed at Dems
• Public option not only hurdle
• Obama invokes Kennedy’s letter, delivered after death
The controversy over whether illegal immigrants can benefit from the health reforms Mr. Obama is proposing was a hot topic at health care town halls during the August congressional recess. Mr. Obama noticeably paused after Mr. Wilson’s shout.
Within hours of the speech ending, Democrat Rob Miller, Mr. Wilson’s challenger in 2010, raised more than $55,000 and challenged the several hundred new Twitter followers he gained during the evening to “double that in 12 hours.”
By noon, the “Defeating the man who yelled ‘liar’ at Obama: Goodbye Rep Joe Wilson,” on ActBlue, an online fundraising channel used by Democrats, had raised $89,235 from more than 2,500 donors.
At least seven of the 15 groups raising money for Mr. Miller on ActBlue appear to have been started after Mr. Wilson’s outburst.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it has tracked a surge in donations to the hopeful, a former Marine.