Rep. Joe Wilson’s Outburst

Here is one account (from Huffington Post and the AP) of Rep. Joe Wilson’s intemperate outburst during a speech by the President of the United States:

***UPDATE*** GOP Rep. Joe Wilson has apologized for yelling out “You lie!” to Obama during his health care speech in front of Congress:

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.

The non-partisan organization FactCheck.org has debunked the claim that health care reform would mandate coverage for illegal immigrants.

During President Obama’s major health care speech on Wednesday, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R) yelled out “You lie!” when the President said the legislation would not mandate coverage for undocumented immigrants.

The Associated Press noted:

It wasn’t the only interruption during Obama’s speech to a joint session of Congress in the House of Representatives. Earlier, Republicans laughed when Obama acknowledged that there are still significant details to be worked out before a health overhaul can be passed.
Wilson’s outburst caused Obama to pause briefly before he went on with his speech. Overhead in the visitors’ gallery, first Lady Michelle Obama shook her head from side to side.


The Congressional chamber is beginning to sound more like the British Parliament, or like a Monty Python sketch. So there’s that. Obviously, Wilson’s outburst was rude, but in broader rhetorical terms, it seemed tactically silly.

First of all, the notion of “illegal immigrants” being covered by the health-care bill (which doesn’t yet exist) seems to have been pretty well debunked by neutral parties. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say it hasn’t been debunked. How hard would it be for any representative, including Wilson, to include a sentence in the bill that stipulates “illegal immigrants” shall not be covered by the bill’s provisions? (Indeed, such a provision apparently already exists in one of the draft-bills!) I just get this sense that Mr. Wilson had the feeling he was losing a good tool by which to fire up his supporters and raise money.

Second, and to shift from rhetoric to athletics, President Obama must have gotten in Mr. Wilson’s head–and Obama didn’t even have to use trash-talk!

Third, let’s go to “the text,” as we like to say in English when we explicate a poem or a novel. Venue: C-Span. Brian Lamb asks Joe Wilson to point to the part of the bill (assuming one exists) that covers “illegal immigrants.” Mr. Wilson points. Camera zooms in. Does the text support Mr. Wilson’s interpretation or not? I think this televised close-reading activity would be much more productive and conclusive that shouting “You lie!” while the President, a guest in your professional house, is speaking civilly to you.

Say it ain’t so, Joe. Say you didn’t just let President Obama in your head.

And thanks to the blog’s co-author for this link concerning the facts about illegal immigrants and health-care:

PolitiFact.com said that what Wilson said was untrue. See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/sep/09/joe-wilson/joe-wilson-south-carolina-said-obama-lied-he-didnt/

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2 Responses to “Rep. Joe Wilson’s Outburst”

  1. Wild Bill Says:

    Factcheck.com confirms the truth of what Obama said and the untruth of what Wilson said.

    PolitiFact.com said that what Wilson said was untrue. See http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/sep/09/joe-wilson/joe-wilson-south-carolina-said-obama-lied-he-didnt/

  2. Hating on Obama- Is it Racial? « Mark Riley Media Says:

    […] will point to everything from Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You Lie” during Obama’s speech to the joint session of Congress, to likening him to Hitler, to that […]


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