EXCLUSIVE: Wilson: Carter’s racism claims a distraction

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Rep. Joe Wilson said Wednesday that former President Jimmy Carter’s accusations of racism are a distraction from the issues.

At a town hall at his presidential center in Atlanta on Tuesday, Mr. Carter said Mr. Wilson’s outburst during President Obama’s speech last week was rooted in racism.

“I think it’s based on racism,” he said. “There is an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president.”

The former president and Democratic members of Congress are playing politics, Mr. Wilson told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show. He was formally reprimanded by the House on Tuesday.

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“That is such a distraction and a diversion from the issues that we should be discussing,” he said. “I really want to take the advice of President Obama, and that is that we should be discussing the issues, and that is what I intend to do.”

Mr. Wilson, South Carolina Republican, said he knew what he did was wrong — interrupting Mr. Obama’s speech with the outburst “You lie” in response to the president’s assertion that a health reform bill would not include coverage for illegal immigrants.

He said he is not objecting to Mr. Obama the person, but the issues at stake in the health care reform debate.

Mr. Wilson immediately called the White House the evening of the speech to apologize.

“The apology was accepted and it was stated, ‘Let’s go on to a civil discussion of the issues of health care,’” he said.

In the past week, Mr. Wilson said, he has raised “significantly over $1 million” since he “became the number one target of Washington Democrats and Moveon.org.”

He said he believed Democratic lawmakers used the incident to play politics.

“It was exactly what the president said should not occur,” Mr. Wilson said. “In the speech, right in the middle of it, he said we should stop playing politics, and I believe they were playing politics, for political gain.”

Mr. Wilson’s Democratic challenger, Rob Miller, also has raised more than $1 million since the incident.

About the Author

Jillian Badanes

Jillian Badanes presents the day’s top news stories in the daily “Morning Briefing” video. Check out the latest “Morning Briefing” here. Jillian graduated from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs with a major in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in International Politics. She spent her early years in London, England and Connecticut before ...

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