The aftermath of Rep. Joe Wilson (R.- S. Carolina) publicly insulting the president continued last night with the House of Representatives admonishing Wilson and former President Jimmy Carter going public with suspicions that Wilson’s conduct was based on racism. Wilson insists the incident ended when he apologized privately to President Obama for denouncing him as a liar during Obama’s address to Congress last week. But as last night’s House admonishment and Carter’s racism comments demonstrate, Wilson’s depiction of the incident as over is at odds with public perception.
The House admonished Wilson Tuesday by a vote of 240-179 for shouting “You lie!’ during President Obama’s address to Congress last week. The admonishment took the form of a resolution of disapproval, the least severe sanction available.
Before being admonished by the House of Representatives for his conduct, Wilson had apologized to President Obama and Obama had accepted the apology. But when requested to apologize formally on the House floor, Wilson refused, saying that he believed his apology to the President was sufficient, according to USA Today. That refusal to apologize on the House floor led to the House taking up the resolution to formally admonish Wilson.
“I think it is clear to the American people that there are far more important issues facing this nation than what we’re addressing right now,” Wilson said during the House admonishment proceedings, according to the USA Today report. Wilson asserted that Obama “graciously accepted my apology and the issue is over.”
President Carter Speaks Out about Joe Wilson Admonishment
Former President Jimmy Carter, a man marked by temperate public commentary, said last night that he thinks fellow southerner Joe Wilson’s outburst last week was an act “based on racism.”
The Washington Post today recapped an NBC interview with Carter in which Carter explained his view of the unusual level of disrespect directed at Obama, including Wilson’s outburst, “I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shared the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African Americans. And that racism inclination still exists. . . . It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.”
AP reported that Carter described Wilson’s outburst as part of a disturbing trend: “Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national program on health care,” Carter said. “It’s deeper than that.”
Wilson’s son last night denied Carter’s conclusion that racism played a role in his father’s shouting down Obama during last week’s address to Congress.
Whether Wilson’s puiblic rudeness is rooted in racism as Carter believes, or not as his son contends, Wilson opened a can of worms with respect to racism when he publicly denounced the nation’s first African American president.
Former South Carolinian Democratic chair Dick Harpootlian, who knows Wilson, does not think Wilson was motivated by racism. But, he received a flood of racial emails after addressing the Wilson admonishment proceedings on televison.
Harpootlian told AP, “You have a bunch of folks out there looking for some comfort in their racial issues. They have a problem with an African-American president.”
Whether intentional or not, Wilson appears to have fueled racist sentiments against the president when he called Obama a liar in a formal setting. Wilson’s apology to Obama does little to stem the flood the racism he unleashed.
Sufficiency of Wilson’s Apology
While Wilson apologized to Obama privately for shouting “You lie!” during Obama’s speech, his subsequent actions leave open the question of how sorry he really is for his conduct.
In refusing to apologize on the House floor, Wilson continued his trend of disrespecting his fellow legislators, the president, and the American public.
Wilson derided the president in a public proceeding but insisted that a private apology is all that is required even when challenged by fellow House members who feel otherwise. While a private apology may satisfy President Obama, it ignores the insult to the Congress and the public forced to witness Wilson’s televised misbehavior.
Does Wilson not recognize that his comment directed at the president affected his fellow legislators and the American public whose enjoyment of the president’s speech was marred by his outburst? Wilson’s continued minimization and isolation of the effects of his public outburst raises doubts about the sincerity of his apology and adds credence to Carter’s beliefs that Wilson’s outburst was steeped in racism.
In light of the public controversy created by the comments that caused the House to admonish Wilson, posting of an apology on his official House website might prove a reasonable course. But don’t look for an apology on Wilson’s Web page. It isn’t there.
Sources: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2009-09-13-wilson-vote_N.htm; http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/2009/09/15/2009-09-15_congress_rebukes_rep_joe_wilson_for_you_lie_cry_during_president_obama_speech.html; http://www.gpb.org/news/2009/09/16/carter-wilson-outburst-based-on-racism; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/15/AR2009091503689.html; http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090916/ap_on_go_co/us_health_care_heckling_carter; http://www.joewilson.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=21&Itemid=36.