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Heckling Rep's Son Defends Dad

The uproar over a South Carolina congressman's heckling of President Barack Obama may not be over.

Republican Joe Wilson shouted "You lie!" during Mr. Obama's health care address to Congress Wednesday night. His exhortation came after the president said extending health care to all Americans who seek it would not mean insuring illegal immigrants.

Wilson later apologized to the White House, and the president accepted the apology.

But House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said he favors a resolution of public disapproval if Wilson doesn't apologize to the House by Tuesday.

The House rules state, "Members should refrain from speaking disrespectfully of the Speaker or arraigning the personal conduct of the Speaker ... Engaging in personalities with respect to the Speaker's conduct is not in order."

The Republican Party's own rules of civility in Congress (promoted when the president was a Republican) are even more specific:

"A Member should avoid impugning the motives of another Member, the Senate or the President, using offensive language, or uttering words that are otherwise deemed unparliamentary. … [I]t is not permissible to use language that is personally offensive to the President, such as referring to him as a 'hypocrite' or a 'liar.' Similarly, it is not in order to refer to the President as 'intellectually dishonest' or an action taken by the President as 'cowardly.'"

Wilson said his apology to the president settles the issue.

But CBS News Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that Wilson has since said that he believes he is being held to a double standard, charging that Democrats were not so vilified for making disparaging remarks against President Bush.

"I respect the office of the president," he said.

The controversy is giving a financial boost to Wilson's Democratic opponent, Rob Miller. In the first 24 hours after Wilson's outburst, Miller's campaign coffers swelled by $700,000, according to Jessica Santillo of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 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.

Meanwhile, T-shirts and bumper stickers have sprung up supporting Wilson.

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."

More coverage of Health Care Reform

Wilson's son, Alan Wilson, said his father's outburst was "an aberration," and that his apology was for the timing of the remarks but not for their content.

Alan Wilson, who is running for attorney general of South Carolina, said today on CBS' "Early Show", "I'm very proud of my father. He apologized and I'm glad that he did. But what he said was absolutely true. And I'm proud of him for having the courage to tell the truth."

"So then, rather than apologize, did he consider embracing this and saying, 'You know what? I'm tired of the political correctness and the phoniness, people should just be able to say what they really feel'?" asked "Early Show" anchor Maggie Rodriguez.

"Well, Maggie, first I want to say this, we should look at the facts. The comment that triggered my father's remark was when the president said that tax funds would not go to insuring illegal aliens. And if you look at the facts, several weeks ago Democrats in Congress twice voted down amendments that would have required citizenship verification. The Congressional Research Service confirmed that illegal immigrants under this bill could easily be insured under President Obama's health care bill. And this is what frustrated Dad."

"They would be allowed to apply, but they would be barred from the subsidies," said Rodriguez.

"Maggie, I'm running for state attorney general and I've been in law enforcement for years. Now a prosecutor in law enforcement - and by the way, law enforcement means you have to be able to enforce the law - as a prosecutor in law enforcement, if there's no mechanism to enforce the law, then the law is hollow and empty and it's no good, and that's what frustrated my Dad. There is absolutely no way to enforce the law if there's no requirement to verify your citizenship."

"So should he have apologized? If you're supporting him and apparently others are as well, why the apology?" asked Rodriguez.

"Like I said, I refer back to Dad's original remarks when he apologized to the president, which I'm glad that he did and I'm glad the president accepted it. He apologized for the timing of the remarks. But the substance of the remarks are still substantively true."

When asked if he thought his father would apologize to fellow House members, Wilson said, "He apologized one time. He's reiterated that apology from that first time. And I think everyone understands that he was basically voicing the frustration of the American people."

Calling his father a "very reserved man who had raised four Eagle scouts and four sons in the military and he's very patriotic," Wilson said his father's conduct was "an aberration."

"He's very passionate about health care reform, but he's also very passionate about truthfully bringing health care reform to the American people in an honest and open way."

Asked if he thought the heckling and the huge influx in campaign donations to Wilson's Democratic rival in the hours following may cost his father his seat, Wilson said, "My Dad's been in public service for 25 years and everyone in his district knows that he's passionate about national defense and limited government, lower taxes. And he's passionate about health care reform and he's passionate about being truthful with the American people. And so I think that's going to resonate very well with the people of the Second Congressional District as well as the people of South Carolina.

"And like I said, Maggie, the debate should not be about his remarks in Congress. The apology's been made and accepted. The debate should be in the American people and the people listening to my voice right now should ask the question: why did the Democrats vote down the amendment to enforce that clause, the amendment that would require citizenship verification. Why if it's a harmless amendment, why vote it down? And that's where the focus should be."

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