Tourism boycott threatened over Wilson's 'You lie' outburst

McClatchy NewspapersSeptember 14, 2009 

WASHINGTON — State and local tourism officials are being flooded by emails and calls from people across the country, saying they won't vacation in South Carolina because they're upset by GOP Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst at President Barack Obama.

The officials said that a number of the out-of-state e-mailers have said they've taken beach trips for years in Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and other South Carolina resort areas, but don't plan to return.

In Washington, House Democratic leaders Monday finalized drafting a measure reprimanding Wilson for yelling "you lie!" at Obama last week while he addressed a joint session of Congress.

"It was a breach of conduct that brought discredit to the House," said Kristie Greco, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the House's third-ranking Democrat. "The resolution of disapproval will address his breach of conduct."

The resolution being drafted cites a clause of the "House Rules and Manual," which governs members' conduct. The clause specifically prohibits calling the president a liar.

Wilson upped the ante by going to the House floor Monday and speaking out against Obama's bid to expand government health benefits for millions of uninsured Americans.

"During the August recess, I was honored to host the largest congressional town halls in the history of South Carolina — 1,700 in Columbia, 1,500 in Lexington, 1,500 in Beaufort, and 1,200 in Hilton Head," Wilson said.

"During my 25 years of serving the public in the state Senate and Congress, I have not seen such passionate events full of patriots — 95 percent of whom support health insurance reform but not a government takeover," he said.

Other Republican lawmakers spoke on the House floor in Wilson's defense.

"No one has a claim to any further redress if the president of the United States accepts an apology, and he did," said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican. "So I stand with Joe Wilson. Let's get on with the business of this House, and let's start running the country instead of taking cheap political shots."

Wilson, in his eighth year in the U.S. House, and Democratic challenger Rob Miller said their fundraising totals had passed $3 million combined — more than $1.5 million apiece — in fewer than five days since Wilson's now-famous shout.

In a new USA Today/Gallup poll, 68 percent of Americans said they "oppose what Joe Wilson did during the speech." Twenty-one percent said they support Wilson's behavior.

South Carolina's $1 billion-plus tourism industry, centered around its beaches, had already been hit by the recession as Americans postpone vacations or cancel travel altogether. The state's 11.8 percent unemployment rate is among the highest in the country.

Marion Edmonds, a spokesman for the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, said his agency had received 147 emails from people who cited Wilson by name and expressed displeasure with his remark.

"Some of them have been specific and said they won't be coming to the beach this summer for their family vacation," Edmonds said.

Ryan Murphy, a Wilson spokesman, said urged people to continue visiting South Carolina.

"Congressman Wilson takes pride in his state and district," Murphy said.

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