Rep. Joe Wilson released a combative fundraising video on Thursday asking supporters for donations, saying his outburst during President Obama's health care address was "wrong," but that he "will not be muzzled."
"The supporters of the government takeover of health care and the liberals who want to give health care to illegals are using my opposition as an excuse to distract from the critical questions being raised about this poorly conceived plan," Wilson said in the video. "I will not be muzzled. I will speak up loudly against this risky plan."
The fiery video appeal came after reports his Democratic opponent had raised more than half a million dollars since the outburst against Obama.
"I need your help now," Wilson pleads in the video, directing viewers to his campaign Web site.
According to Jessica Santillo of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, since Wilson blurted "You lie!", the campaign coffers of Rob Miller, who is challenging him in 2010, swelled by $700,000.
The contributions, she said, came in from 20,000 individual contributions. It's not clear whether the people who made the donations live in South Carolina.
Wilson's outburst made some supporters shudder even as others believed it could give him a political boost in his conservative hometown.
"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."
Wilson told WIS-TV "by calling the president right away following the speech, I feel that covers the issue the apology called for, and the response was accepted, and I'm now grateful we can get on to the issue itself."
Wilson's shout came after Obama said extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.
The House version of the health care bill explicitly prohibits spending any federal money to help illegal immigrants get health care. Illegal immigrants could buy private health insurance, as many do now, but wouldn't get tax subsidies to help them. Still, Republicans say there aren't sufficient citizenship verification requirements to ensure illegal immigrants are excluded.
In Wilson's district, many voters said the heckle wouldn't affect their support for him. Some said they wished more politicians would speak their minds — but most said they wished it hadn't happened.
"Joe was very immature. He's always been pretty under control. I'm a little embarrassed," said Roy Smith, a business manager who spoke as he ate breakfast in Cayce. "I voted for Joe and probably still will."
Wilson, who served as a military attorney, retired as a colonel in the South Carolina National Guard in 2003 after 31 years. His four sons also have served in the military, something mentioned repeatedly at Wilson's public appearances in this military-friendly state. For some, that background makes the outburst against the nation's commander in chief even more striking.
"I thought it was disgraceful," said the Rev. Kevin Roberts, who said he doesn't support Wilson. "I don't begrudge him his feeling. But I think there's a way to communicate that and a way not to, and I think it's shameful. I expect more decorum and respect for the office."
Miller said Wilson should apologize to his district too. Last year, Miller gave Wilson his most serious challenge since winning a 2001 special election to fill the vacancy left by the death of Republican Floyd Spence.
"As a retired South Carolina National Guard colonel, he should have known better. It's disrespectful to our commander in chief in a setting where the world was watching," Miller, a former Marine who runs on online military memorabilia business, said from his home in Beaufort. "It was childish."
The district stretches across 10 counties from central to coastal South Carolina and hasn't elected a Democrat to Congress since 1965. It encompasses wide economic contrasts: Allendale County has the state's highest unemployment rate — 22.5 percent in July — while Lexington County has the lowest rate at 8 percent.
His district is also home to some of the state's largest military installations: the Army's Fort Jackson outside Columbia, and two major Marine Corps facilities — Parris Island Training Depot and the Marine Corps Air Station — both near Beaufort.
At least three members of Wilson's voluntary, minority advisory committee said they resigned Thursday.
"I didn't personally want to be associated with that sort of inappropriateness toward the president of the United States of America," said J.T. McLawhorn, executive director of the Columbia Urban League, who's served on the group since Wilson formed it a decade ago.
"It's just a sad day for us in South Carolina," McLawhorn said. "The perception to people outside of South Carolina is that we just live in a negative environment here."
Wilson is known in Congress for giving one-minute speeches when the floor is open for short statements on any topic, but he has been confrontational in the past.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, he demanded that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., apologize for his 1971 comments criticizing those who served in Vietnam. Former Democratic Sen. Max Cleland of Georgia, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, defended Kerry and called Wilson a "chicken hawk" for supporting military action without going to war. However, two of Wilson's sons have served in Iraq.
In 2003, Wilson called it "unseemly" for the mixed-race daughter of Sen. Strom Thurmond, Essie Mae Washington-Williams, to identify the longtime South Carolina senator as her father after his death.
"It's a smear on the image that (Thurmond) has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina," he told The State newspaper of Columbia. Wilson had worked as an intern in Thurmond's office. After a public outcry, he said he had the utmost respect for Washington-Williams.
Wilson's eldest son, Alan — who is running for state attorney general — agreed Thursday that his father chose the wrong place to vent, but said the heckle shows that "what the president said really struck a chord."
"He is a very even-keel and calm person. My dad never gets upset," Alan Wilson said. "Last night, Dad's emotions got the better of him. ... I'm proud of my father for apologizing for the venue he voiced his opposition. I'm also proud of him for calling the president out."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.