South Carolina's Wilson promises he'll be quiet this time

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 26, 2010 

WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of Congress Wednesday night, there will be no shout-out this time.

At least, not from Rep. Joe Wilson.

Wilson, a South Carolina Republican, yelled "You lie!" at Obama on Sept. 9 as the president addressed Congress on live, prime-time television.

Not this time, Wilson said Tuesday.

"That was a one-time incident," Wilson told McClatchy. "I will continue, through my agreement with the White House, to discuss issues civilly."

Wilson, a fifth-term lawmaker who was a military attorney before joining Congress, said he had a nice conversation with Barack and Michelle Obama at a White House Christmas party last month for members of Congress.

Wilson told the first lady he's proud that some of her ancestors hailed from Georgetown County, not from the northern Charleston County town of McClellanville where his parents lived.

Neither Obama nor Wilson brought up the lawmaker's outburst, even in jest.

"I have high respect for the president and the first lady," Wilson said Tuesday.

Wilson apologized to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in a midnight call immediately after Obama's address on his health care reforms.

In the following days, as the shout got global media coverage, Obama and his aides repeatedly said they'd accepted Wilson's apology.

Obama aides Wednesday declined to discuss the incident.

The yell catapulted Wilson from being an unknown outside South Carolina to status as a hero among conservative activists who have flooded his re-election campaign with contributions.

The flap also benefited Rob Miller, Wilson's Democratic opponent in the November elections.

Wilson and Miller raised a combined $4.75 million through Sept. 30, an astounding $4.34 million of it in the 21 days after Wilson's yell.

The fund-raising total has already set a record for the most expensive for any U.S. House campaign in South Carolina history, and the Wilson-Miller race could challenge the nationwide record.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently named the Wilson-Miller contest one of the 17 most important in the country.

Wilson said it's hard to put the "you lie!" incident behind him partly because he still gets asked about it all the time.

"Every five minutes," Wilson said when asked how often the yell is brought up. "People say they're very supportive. Truly, hundreds of thousands of people have communicated with our office, with me, with our family. I'm grateful they understand that I'm a gentleman."

Wilson's newfound legions of supporters, he said, "understand my passion, and they appreciate that I'm continuing to speak out at the proper time and place."

With that, Wilson was off to deliver a "one-minute" — a short speech on the House floor.

"Where are the jobs?" Wilson asked in the nearly empty chamber. "This is the question I continue to ask this liberal majority since they persistently push a job-killing agenda."

Wilson did not mention Obama.

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