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Republican Rep. Joe Wilson's heckling of Obama sparks fundraising flood to his Democratic opponent

South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson sparks outrage by heckling President Obama during a speech on health care reform Sept. 9, 2009

In eight years of George W. Bush's presidency -- despite huge differences on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and contentious debates over torture policy, No Child Left Behind and immigration reform -- no elected official ever heckled the president of the United States when he addressed a joint session of Congress.

But last night, as President Obama was making the case for his healthcare reform initiative, 62-year-old South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson called the president a liar. To his face.

It happened when Obama was rebutting the myths about healthcare reform, including the shibboleth that the package will allow benefits for illegal immigrants. Obama assured the viewing audience that the rumors were false.

"You lie!" shouted Wilson.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looked stunned. First Lady Michelle Obama, watching from the gallery, shook her head back and forth. And Republicans like Arizona's John McCain, calling the heckling "totally disrespectful," immediately called on Wilson to apologize.

Wilson did call the White House to apologize. Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, reportedly livid over the breach of civility, took the call. Then Wilson put out a statement saying, "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."

But the apology did not stop a flood of donations to Wilson's likely Democratic opponent in 2010: Rob Miller, a Marine Corps and Iraq war veteran who lost to Wilson by 8 points last year and is eager for a rematch. Miller quickly put out a statement saying Wilson's behavior "exemplifies everything that is wrong in Washington. Instead of engaging in childish name-calling and disrespecting our commander-in-chief, Joe Wilson should be working towards a bipartisan solution."

"Joe Wilson" quickly became the most searched term on Google. Ditto Twitter. And soon enough, the money started pouring in. ActBlue, which bills itself as the clearinghouse for Democratic action, says it has raised more than $100,000 for Miller, and counting.

Of course, some conservatives are hailing Wilson as a great hero. Red State is urging backers to pony up to Wilson's campaign. They're also flogging Utah Republican Robert F. Bennett for applauding when the president bashed politicians (former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's name was not mentioned but you could kind of hear it in the air) who inspire fear over mythical Obama death panels. Republicans wave suggestions at President Obama during speech to joint session of Congress on health care Sept. 9, 2009

And throughout the speech, House GOP leader Eric Cantor texted on his BlackBerry, and several Republicans waved sheets of paper at the president, offering reform suggestions.

Meanwhile, Wilson's official House website has been overwhelmed. "Due to exceptionally high traffic, this site is temporarily unavailable," says a notice. "Please come back shortly."

-- Johanna Neuman

Top photo: Rep. Joe Wilson. Credit: Reuters. Bottom photo: Republicans wave ideas. Credit: Getty Images.

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Comments () | Archives (91)

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Joe wilson speaks the truth and gets shunned for it. Obama knows that what he is proposing can not work. He needs to concentrate on what makes this country tick.

What took place last night during the President's address to Congress is without question unacceptable, but not unexpected.
The Party of No, is finally showing their true colors. Throughout the President's address the rudeness being displayed by the members of the Republican Party only showed their unwillingness to work with anyone who does not accept their beliefs without question. Unfortunately, their beliefs what they want is not what the people of America want.
What Mr. Wilson did last night is what most of the members of the Republican Party have been doing for the past several months. It appears their only goal is to do nothing in support of the people of our nation.
Mr. Wilson, should resign. His actions and the activities of most of the members of his political party reflect their lack of care and concern for the plight of millions of our fellow citizens.
For a political party that claims to be family oriented and pro-American, the GOP is constantly proving they do not care about the problems individual families are faced with in this current economic climate.
As for being good Americans, all anyone has to do is look closely at what the members of the Republican Party have been doing of the past few years, are these really the activities of good Americans... taking bribes, selling their services to the highest bidder, supporting the corruption of our laws and legal system by allowing crimes and criminal activities to be undertaken by senior politicians for personal reasons - not for the good of the nation.
I strongly believe, at this point in our political history it is time for our people to choose who they really want to represent them, politicians who will sell their services in order to get elected or politicians who really care about the the people they are elected to represent.
Mr. Wilson should not only say he is sorry to the President, he should get on national television and radio and say he is sorry to the nation for his actions and activities. Then he should resign and fade away into the darkness where he crawled out from, along with other members of this failed political party.

"In eight years of George W. Bush's presidency -- despite huge differences on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and contentious debates over torture policy, No Child Left Behind and immigration reform -- no elected official ever heckled the president of the United States when he addressed a joint session of Congress."


Say it ain't so Joe!

Standard fare from a handicapped political party facing extinction.

Representative Joe Wilson's heckling of President Obama was the most disrespectful event in recent history. He should resign immediately and distance himself from future politics. It apppears to me that he had a flash back of "Jim Crow". He is one of many angry white men in america today.

So much for the great state of South Carolina....please take the time to elect respectful people into office. Thanks

Just like so many naysayers in national politics, Rep. Joe Wilson represents the class of citizens who change the rules to fit their own purpose. History has never recorded such disrespectful behavior from a member of our legislative body, during a joint session of congress, that is until now.
I submit that the real reasons for such a show of disdainment by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina towards the President Obama lies just beneath the "facade" that he is representing his constituents back home, or possibly that he is speaking for the American people.

But if we go on an 'archeological dig' of Mr. Wilson's past record on political and social issues, we most likely will find the "stench" of -plain old southern bigotry- that's now dressed up in a suit,necktie, and carries a briefcase.

A hater by any other name is still a hater, and I encourage every eligible voter in the state of South Carolina to rise up and take a stand against this kind of -cancer causing schism- which further leads to the social decay of America.

Make a statement for change and a fresh start in South Carolina: VOTE -JOE WILSON- OUT OF OFFICE!!!

Boy, they DO have a bunch of doozy Republicans down there in South Carolina, don't they? Are they still playing Fort Sumter?

You can donate to Joe @


This act was reprehensible. George Bush stood in front of these guys and lied about WMD's, Saddam Hussein, and sent Americans off to die with the full approval of those same men. Barrack is simply trying to get folks healthcare.

For the life of me, I don't get it. These priveledged bozos, sit on Mt. Olympus and want to deny healthcare to those who need because it decreases some funding they need. They could care less about healthcare since it is free for them.

Had someone spoken out of place to George Bush they would be blacklisted and sent to Iraq. I am truly outraged by the lack of respect shown to the president. If you disagree, do it behind doors. This grandstanding, chest thumping, macho crap should cost him his job

GO Joe!!!!!!! he did the right thing,,, OBAMA IS A LIAR AND A CHEATER!

Go Wilson!!!

He should not have to apologize at all. The Democrats did not when they booed Bush. This is yet another example of the double standard present whenever Obama is around.

52% of Americans disprove of Obamacare. Essentially calling these people liars for the challenges presented to Obamacare is not at all trying to "put aside partisan politics".

I am thankful there is someone willing to stand up against the lies and tyranny of Obama.

And there is no need to constantly play the race many of you are doing now.

you guys are going to continue THE LIE aren't you?
Did you not remember when the Congress openly BOOED President George Bush just afew years ago? Of course not! That would mean you couldn't follow gthrough with your fricking liberal agenda right?
Your statement saying NOBODY ever heckled a President during a session with Congress is a bald-faced lie.
may be you guys should have listended to Limbaugh this afternoon and you would have heard the audio of the libs BOOING President Bush. Oh but that might not resonate well with all your hollywood libs would it?
I say to you, "YOU LIE!' There you are mr liberal condoners.
Bill Moore

And My Thanks Also to Mr. Wilson, It is sad that Mr. Obama is our President, his intentsions are clear. Look at the NEW trouble we have in sence he took office. He has no respect for freedom and the will of the people.

The funny part, as news reports finally made clear, is that Obama was lying. Democrats had killed two amendments dealing with this issue. That's the message that will emerge from this, probably resulting in more money for Wilson. Come back to the story in a month and reveal what happened.

Most of the non-taxpaying evaders of Planned Parenthood on this website fail to realize that Rep. Wilson's website crashed due to high traffic volume. At the end of the day, when his contributions far outdistance those of his presumed democrat hack opponent, will you and other periodicals of your ilk (who are nearing extinction) report that fact?

Illegal aliens won't be covered under ObamaCare? That's a big fat joke! Joe Wilson was right!

Forget Joe Wilson!

Obama honor the dead!!! Remember 911!!!!!!!!!!!!

i just listened and watched the 2005 bush speech. no booing. so does that make wasadem a liar. i get it!

His comments were the actions of a child... Even if he disagress with the president respect should still be shown. I think Obama should be commended for trying to clean up the mess the Bush administration left behind.

OH FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! Democrats booed George W Bush and Harry Reid was at the front of the pack! Stop the lies. America is waking up and the MSM better realize that they created the phenomenon which is Obama, and that the center cannot hold, the smoke and mirrors, as well as tele-prompters will not sustain this illusion. Rally cry for REAL CHANGE IN 2010!

You're an idiot, Delaware Bob, and what's worse, a self-righteous one. Lots of people with jobs don't have health insurance. And you're already paying for illegal immigrants and other people without insurance who get sick through higher insurance premiums and taxes; it would be cheaper for us to cover preventive care for them beforehand (not to mention just plain morally right).

And no, Wilson was not sincere, just like you're not sincere when you offer "advice" to PRESIDENT Obama.

Oh, and Jean, what lengths have you actually gone to to learn what is in any actual health care reform package? Have you read any summaries of legislation that weren't prefaced with words like "dangerous" or "pro-abortion" or "socialist"? It sounds to me like you've listened to one or two biased media outlets and let them tell you what to think. Sarah Palin is a liar, plain and simple, and Republican congressmen who oppose health reform only do so because they're afraid of what voting for it would do to their campaign funding.

I donated to Joe wilson - come on conservatives.... It's time to fight back.

I think the American public is too intelligent not to see Joe Wilson for the slime-ball, self-serving liar that he is.

At least someone in politics tells the truth! Atta boy Joe!

To those of you who refuse to admit the bigger picture. We saw the Gop disdain for the President. We saw with our own eyes. Their attitude "This uppity N....who the hell do he think he is to talk to us like that!" That's why Joe the f....moron open his fool a***mouth! That is the anger we saw! Hm...did he stop to think that the world was watching as well! I am embarrissed for our country, and will participate in any lawful activity that results with him, and his kind out of office! I truly dispise what the Gop has done, and are doing to our once great country! It's hard to watch!

Way to go Wilson! I am going to contribute to HIS campaign, because he actually has guts!

If people will be honest that will not recall any such outburst. I have watched most speeches to joint sessions of congress since the days of Jimmie Carter. I have never hear an outburst on either side like the one I heard while I was watching President Obama speech on Wednesday.

No excuses, not comparisons, it was just wrong. Conservatives sound like a bunch of kids when they say that Dems have done anything comparable.

why do republicans continue to insist that they are "the american public" apparently the results of the last election have yet to sink in. america has rejected your insane ideology, your continous falsehoods, your hypocritical leaders and all the rest of the vile package that is the modern republican party.

JOE I LIKE YOU! bravo for speaking the truth, it seems that conservative momentum is finally building up, the Obama liberal chateau which lacked foundation is finally starting to crumble, middle class Americans and non-illegals (ie normal citizens) can't be silenced any longer. Heated healthcare debates are just a foretaste of how loud we will get if anyone dares proposing 'amnesty' to illegals in 2010...

What a joke this is, during all this so called decorum there nothing but scheming and back stabbing going on. This country is under siege and you are all worried about being gentlemanly and lady-like. Focus people.


Floyd Martin Sept. 10/09 said:

"Joe Wilson" did make a mistake, he should have THROWN A SHOE at the president then the democrats
would have rallied around him! They sure rallied around the last guy to throw a shoe at the president.

Floyd, this is the best comment I read today. The latter sentence is the truest.

It also opened the floodgates of contributions to Mr. Wilson who told the truth as uncomfortable as it may be. Obama Lied. The Democrats voted against a bill that was to deny illegal aliens health care and at every step prevent police from even asking if someone is an illegal alien. I can see it now, hospitals will be prohibited from providing health care to illegals but they will also be preevented from asking anyone if they are illegals.

"heckling" the president isn't the source of the outrage, not at all. it's the sheer dishonor his method of expressing himself cast upon his profession and his constituency, that caused the reaction.

every politician should be challenged, tweaked, mocked, at every opportunity, by every audience. but it should be done in a factually accurate way, with a certain minimum amount of logic, wisdom, humor, and, yes, civility.

I do not agree with the manner in which the noted Representative spoke out, but I applaud his willingness to do so. It is about time someone in Congress stopped acting like someone else's robot and as an American. Not as a rude one, but someone who speaks the truth, no matter how unpleasant it may be.
It is about time that Obama started to listen to how he sounds.
I, as yet, do not consider him our President. He has yet to produce a Birth Certificate despite the number of lawsuits against him. I do not believe him to be a legal President. He needs to prove it. It is not now assumed.

The bailout between Bush and Obama and the Patriot Act by Bush, all unread by our Congress and Bush's bailout signed upon threat of Marshall law, without any Congressman going to the White House and arresting Bush is culpable. All of Congress should be replaced along with their Social Security/ retirement package.
We are no longer being properly represented. Congress has left the course of America to their own self-interest and much to our detriment.
And by the way, where did that $100 Billion go that Bush could have without oversight as part of HIS bailout?

I am a registered Republican, but am for those that really support the people that they are supposed to represent. So far the field is awfully lean. None of my Representatives or Senators do. It's just sad.

It just to show how RACIST the United States of North America is. To have a seasoned Congressman yell in front of the Nation and the world to a siting president while giving a speach to the nation, "you lie."
He did the deed and apologize for it later? I don't buy it! Congressman Wilson is not a toddler or an teen. He should have known better.
Again, it is pure RACISM.

I understand that you are unwilling to apologize to the Congress because you will only apologize once. I further understand that you have apologized to the President of the United States, that being your once. I don't give two wits about your excuses. You should apologize not only to the Congress but to the American people for your ridiculous, childish and utterly disrespectful behavior as a member of Congress toward our President. You are an embarrassment to our country and I think you should consider resigning if you have no more self control than that.

Terri Cavi

Johanna Neuman must do better research to avoid future inaccuracies.


Joe Wilson's 15 minutes of infamy notwithstanding, Democrats were pretty rough on George W. Bush during a joint sessions a few years back.

Two examples:

In 2004, Democrats delivered a “Chorus Of Boos” during Bush's Bush’s State Of The Union when he called for renewal of the Patriot Act., according to the Washington Times.

In 2005, Dems howled, hissed and shouted "No!" when Bush pushed for Social Security reform in the SOU: "Foreshadowing the contentiousness of the coming debate, Democrats broke decorum and booed twice," according to the National Journal.

At the time, CNN's Bill Schneider remarked, “It was unusual. I had never heard it at least at that level before. The Democrats clearly were booing, heckling, saying no when the president talked about the crisis in Social Security."

I'm almost speechless. The Democratic Party has done the Republican Party the biggest favor ever by electing the first truly Communist President. Watch how Republican coffers fill up before the 2010 midterm campaign.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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