Joe WilsonJoeWilson

What was the accusation?

Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina received international attention in September of 2009 when he yelled “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress outlining his proposals for reforming health care.  Wilson would later apologize for his breach of congressional decorum and Obama accepted his apology graciously.

Key Apologia Strategies:

Mortification, Defeasibility

Video of Joe Wilson’s Apology

Transcript of Joe Wilson’s Video Apology

Well, I..uh…last night heard from the leadership that they wanted me to contact the White House and state that my statements were inappropriate. I did. I’m very grateful that the White House, in talking with them, that they indicated that they appreciated the call and that we needed to have a civil discussion about the health care issues and I certainly agree with that. And so I’m happy to discuss the health care issues and in particular on the issues which I think is very important of whether the bills cover…would include illegal aliens or not.

My background in that is that I was aware that there were two different amendments on the bill which would have provided for verification of a persons having citizenship. One was in the Ways and Means committee. One was in Energy and Commerce Committee. And both of those were defeated overwhelmingly. They were almost party line votes. On one of the amendments, several Democrats actually voted with us. Also the Congressional Resource Services has indicated that indeed the bills that are before Congress would include illegal aliens and I think this is wrong. We need to be discussing issues specifically to help the American people and that would not include illegal aliens. These are people…I’m for immigration, legal immigration. I’ve been an immigration attorney. But, people who have come to our country and violated laws, we should not be providing full health care services.

[Reporter then poses question about whether his shout out during Obama’s speech was premeditated].

Well, hey, I will tell you this that it was spontaneous. It was when he stated as he did about not covering illegal aliens when I knew that we had had those two amendments. And I say that respectfully. We need to discuss the issues and I’m happy to do that and I’m gonna run and go vote. Thank you for being here.

Transcript of Official Statement Released to Press on September 9, 2009

This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the President’s remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the President’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the President for this lack of civility.


Compton, J., & Miller, B. (2015, Fall). “You lie!” and “I’m sorry.”: Congressman Joe Wilson’s outburst and attempted image repair. Journal of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri, 45, 1-17.

Hulse, C. (2009, September 9). In lawmaker’s outburst, a rare breach of protocol. New York Times. Retrieved from:

Nasaw, D. (2009, September 15). House chastises South Carolina representative who called Obama a liar. The Guardian. Retrieved from:

Obama accepts apology for Wilson outburst (2009, September 10). NBC News. Retrieved from:

Rep. Wilson shouts, ‘you lie’ to Obama during speech (2009, September 10). CNN. Retrieved from: