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GOP Congressman Heckles Obama During Speech: 'You Lie!'

This article is more than 10 years old.

In an extraordinary breach of congressional decorum, a Republican lawmaker shouted "You lie" at President Obama during his speech to Congress on Wednesday.

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., in the House chamber on Wednesday night as President Obama delivered a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)
Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., in the House chamber on Wednesday night as President Obama delivered a speech on health care to a joint session of Congress. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., tried to call Mr. Obama to apologize in person, but ended up speaking to White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

The contrite congressman, "expressed his apologies" to Emanuel, not the president at whom he had shouted a few hours earlier, Wilson's office said.

By that time, Wilson's House Web site had crashed and he had taken a brutal beating on his Twitter page for breaching protocol and good manners during a presidential speech to a joint session of Congress.

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," Wilson said in a statement. "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."

Wilson's outburst came after Mr. Obama said that extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.

"You lie!" Wilson shouted from his seat on the Republican side of the chamber.

Republicans froze, with several looking in Wilson's direction.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a fierce frown at him; first lady Michelle Obama pursed her lips and shook her head from side to side. Vice President Joe Biden looked down and shook his head, too.

Mr. Obama, meanwhile, looked toward the outburst and replied, "That's not true," and went on with his speech.

Right away, Wilson seemed to sense that he had fouled up. Wilson appeared to consult his Blackberry for much of the rest of Mr. Obama's speech. He shook his head defiantly after several of the president's statements. When Mr. Obama finished, Wilson bolted from the chamber.

Wilson's wasn't the only interruption during Mr. Obama's speech, but it was the most notable.

Mr. Obama's Republican rival from last year's presidential race for the White House defended the president.

Wilson's behavior was "totally disrespectful," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on CNN. "There is no place for it in that setting, or any other, and he should apologize for it immediately."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said "I have never in my 29 years heard an outburst of that nature with reference to a president of the United States speaking as a guest of the House and Senate."

"It was a shameful act," he told WTOP radio.

Hoyer said he'll work with GOP lawmakers to decide whether to punish Wilson.

This program aired on September 10, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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