The congressman who called President Barack Obama a liar during Obama’s prime-time, televised speech on health care opposes penalties for job discrimination and hate-crime protection for gays.
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South Carolina Rep. Addison Graves “Joe” Wilson was criticized after shouting “You lie!” from his seat in the House of Representatives chamber Wednesday night. The outburst appeared to surprise and briefly distract Obama, who’d just stated that his healthcare reform plan would not give coverage to illegal immigrants.
“While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable,” read a later statement from Wilson. “I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”
Obama addressed multiple myths about the reform plan, saying “That’s not true,” in response to Wilson. The FactCheck.org Web site confirms that nothing in the plan offers coverage for illegals.
In 2007, Wilson voted against two bills, one that would include protection of gays from hate crime. The other bill intended to penalize employers for each pay period that unequal salaries were paid to employees based on race, religion, gender, age or disability discrimination. Both bills passed.
A Republican and George Bush supporter, Wilson worked early in his career as an intern for the notoriously racist Sen. Strom Thurmond. Thurmond supported segregation during his many years as a South Carolina legislator.
Among those criticizing Wilson’s attack on Obama was the president’s ex-rival John McCain. Shortly after the president’s address, McCain told CNN host Larry King that Wilson should apologize “immediately.” Wilson’s disrespect toward the president isn’t the first time that having a big mouth caused him trouble: During a 2002 debate on the possibility of war in Iraq, Wilson called Rep. Bob Filner “viscerally anti-American” and accused him of harboring “hatred of America.”
In similar form to his Obama apology, Wilson later claimed he didn’t mean to insult Filner.