Rep. Joe Wilson is known as a mild-mannered congressman fond of making short speeches. His shortest got the most attention. "You lie!" Wilson blurted out during President Barack Obama's health care address to a joint session Wednesday night, an outburst that made some supporters shudder even as others believed it could give Wilson a political boost in his conservative hometown.
In this Dec. 28, 2006 photo, US Rep Joe Wilson, R-S.C. announces his agenda for the 110th Congress, and discusses his accomplishments from the 109th Congress, in West Columbia, S.C.
"He's the only one who has guts in that whole place. He'll get re-elected in a landslide," said John Roper, an insurance agent, as he sat among patrons at a diner near Columbia.
Still, Southern sensibilities reign in the district the 62-year-old has represented for the past eight years. Added Roper, "He probably shouldn't have said it in that context."
Wilson apologized to the White House soon after the speech and again Thursday, but did not back away from the issue that prompted his outburst. "People who have come to our country and violated laws, we should not be providing full health care services," he said.
The uproar may not be over, despite Obama having accepted Wilson's apology. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he favors a resolution of public disapproval if Wilson doesn't apologize to the House by Tuesday.
Clyburn, whose district adjoins Wilson's, said he was not surprised by the outburst: "I think that's indicative of the combativeness he displays all the time when it comes to politics."