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Transcript: Rep. Joe Wilson on 'FNS'
Written by Chris Wallace / Published September 14, 2009 / Fox News Sunday
The following is a rush transcript of the September 13, 2009, edition of "FOX News Sunday With Chris Wallace." This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Here now to talk about his outburst during President Obama's speech is South Carolina Republican Joe Wilson.
And, Congressman, welcome to "FOX News Sunday."
REP. JOE WILSON, R-S.C.: And, Chris, it's an honor to be with you, and I — I just am grateful to be here.
WALLACE: Well, let's get right to it. House Democrats have changed their mind. They've decided that they are going to make you choose early this week — either you formally apologize on the floor of the House to all of your colleagues for calling the president — saying, "You lie," or they are going to formally discipline you.
What are you going to — what are you going to do, sir?
WILSON: Chris, I'm a civil person. I believe on civility on the floor. Additionally, on Wednesday night, I had just completed town hall meetings, the largest congressional town hall meetings in the history of South Carolina — 1,700 people in Colombia, 1,500 in Lexington, 1,500 in Beaufort, 1,200 in Hilton Head.
People were passionate. They do not want government control of health care. And so on Wednesday night I had what one of my sons said was a town hall moment. After the speech — I stayed for the whole speech...
WALLACE: I'm — let me just interrupt, because we will get to the...
WALLACE: ... Wednesday night. I just want...
WALLACE: ... to ask you, first of all, though, what are you going to do this week?
WILSON: I am not going to apologize again. I apologized to the president on Wednesday night. I was advised then that — thank you, now let's get on to a civil discussion of the issues.
But I — I've apologized one time. The apology was accepted by the president, by the vice president, who I know. I am not apologizing again.
In fact, I've been proven correct on the issue of citizen verification. And in fact, the Senate adopted it on Friday, and then I'm very grateful on Friday night the White House has now — is now going to include it in their bill.
WALLACE: But let's — and we'll get to all of that, I promise.
WILSON: Yes. Yes.
WALLACE: But let's get to this question of the apology.
WALLACE: You say you've apologized...
WALLACE: ... twice, but...
WILSON: No, no, once. Once, on Wednesday.
WALLACE: Well, you issued a statement. Then you called the White House.
WALLACE: Why not apologize to your House colleagues? They say you broke the rules.
WILSON: My view is that the apology to the president, to the White House, his acceptance, the vice president's acceptance — people know my civility. They know that this was a one-time event, and it was out of frustration. I believe in the truth. What I heard was not true.
WALLACE: So how will you feel — because that means that they are going to vote, and they certainly will vote, to rebuke you, some form of discipline. How are you going to feel when they make you stand in the well of the House and House Speaker Pelosi formally disciplines you?
WILSON: My view is it's politics. This is playing politics. This is exactly what the American people do not want to see, do not want to hear.
They want to get — as the White House advised, let's get to the issues. Let's discuss the issues — the bankrupting cost, the threat to senior citizens by the reductions in Medicare.
WALLACE: But when you say you think it's politics, what, you think the Democrats are playing politics?
WILSON: Oh, yeah, the Democrats are playing politics. And this is just a way to divert attention from a bill that would cost 1.6 million jobs, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. It's a diversion from people looking at the bill and the concerns about this bill.
WALLACE: Let's go back to Wednesday night, and let's show the moment as it happened, as the president of the United States was addressing Congress. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
WILSON: You lie!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: What do you think when you see that?
WILSON: Well, I have respect for the president. I have respect for the office of the president. I would never do something like that again. But I...
WALLACE: But you did do it.
WILSON: Yes. And I — I just felt so provoked because I am on committee, on the committee — Education and Labor. I know the amendments that were on Ways and Means — at Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce that the Democrats voted down for citizenship verification. So I knew what he said was not true. I read the bill. I read all 1,000 pages.
WALLACE: Now, let me ask you, because we're going...
WALLACE: ... to get into the details in a minute. Do you think when the president was saying what he said there that he was lying?
WILSON: I believe he was misstating the facts.
WALLACE: Well, you didn't say that. You said, "You lie."
WILSON: Well, I truly would have said it in a different way if I had time. And I — I respect, again, the president. But what he said was not accurate and that's why I'm glad they've now agreed to having citizen verification on Friday.
WALLACE: Now, in today's New York Times — I have to bring this up to you...
WALLACE: ... columnist Maureen Dowd says that the shout — she believes — suggests the shout was based on race, and she wrote this. "Wilson clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber."
WILSON: Oh, hey, no. Hey...
WALLACE: Question: Is Mr. Obama's race an issue for you?
WILSON: No, no. Hey, I respect the president. Actually, there's a relationship, in a way. His wife — her family's from Georgetown. My family's from next door in McClellanville. So I have a great respect for the Obama family.
WALLACE: Afterwards, as we said, you issued a written statement which seemed to be an apology. You called the White House...
WALLACE: ... and certainly there apologized. But since then you have suggested, "Look, I was basically following the directions of the Republican Party." You also, if I may, put up this video. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILSON: On these issues, I will not be muzzled. I will speak up and speak loudly against this risky plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman, if you're fundraising off the incident...
WALLACE: ... are you really sorry?
WILSON: I would never do this on purpose. But I have been — by national Democrats, by MoveOn.org, been named the number one target for the elections next year.
So I am — and I appreciate the overwhelming response from people to be involved. And I will not be muzzled. I'm going to be speaking on behalf of the American people, but I will be doing it very civilly.
WALLACE: Since Wednesday, you've raised more than a million dollars in campaign funds. So, quite frankly, has your likely opponent.
WALLACE: Do you think this has helped you or hurt you in your home district?
WILSON: In the district, it's been overwhelming, Chris. People have just been loving, actually, and very wonderful, calling my wife, Roxanne, our sons, our whole family. And so people have just — our office has been overwhelmed with phone calls, letters and contributions. And I'm grateful for each.
WALLACE: Let's get to the issue that got you so riled up. I promised we would do that.
WALLACE: Are illegals banned from the president's reform plan or not? Let's take a look at House Bill 3200, perhaps the main House bill.
Under the title "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens," it says, "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payments for affordability credits or subsidies on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."
Congressman, as you read that, wasn't the president right and you wrong?
WILSON: No, because there's no enforcement, and that's why they've agreed and so did the Senate on Friday adopt enforcement provisions. And then the White House itself on Friday had said it will be changed to have enforcement provisions.
I'd read the bill. I was familiar with the amendments. I knew it didn't have any meaning at all.
WALLACE: You know, since the incident — and you're quite right, the White House has said the president is going to put even stronger enforcement measures in his plan to make sure that illegals do not participate.
The Senate Finance Committee has said it's going to do that as well. Do you feel that your outburst is responsible for that?
WILSON: I do think I brought the issue up. Yes, I do. And I — I'm grateful even for recognition in the New York Times as they discuss this particular issue. It was the lead editorial in the Wall Street Journal Friday about truth and what was in the bill.
I think I've really — I think — and I didn't mean to do this, but I believe that I've certainly brought attention to all the issues. But one that's, again, crucial to me is jobs. And this bill will cost jobs at a time of high unemployment.
WALLACE: So let's go back, because you say you are not going to apologize again, and that means that you're going to be brought to the House floor some time this week in front of all of your colleagues, stand there on the House floor in the well of the chamber, and Speaker Pelosi is going to read out a discipline, a rebuke of you.
Is that going to be tough for you? Are you going to feel proud? Are you going to feel embarrassed?
WILSON: No, it's going to be tough, because I respect my colleagues, and I respect civility, and I support civility, and I — this was a — as my son said, a town hall moment. But I respect civility and I promote civility in every way, particularly on the House floor.
WALLACE: But you're not sorry you did it in the sense that you think you did the wrong thing.
WILSON: Well, I did. I apologized to the president one time, and it was accepted by the president, the vice president, and so I — I believe that the American people know that I'm a civil person, a person who respects the institution of the House.
I have apologized to the president. I believe that is sufficient.
WALLACE: Congressman Wilson, we want to thank you so much for coming in today.
WILSON: Thank you.
WALLACE: Please come back, sir.
WILSON: Well, I look forward to it. thank you.
WALLACE: It could be an interesting week for you.
WILSON: No — well, (inaudible).
WALLACE: Has been a few interesting days already.
WILSON: Yes. Yes. Yes.
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