On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today , Rep. Mike Pence , the chairman of the House Republican Conference, joined that chorus, saying he was “disappointed” in Wilson’s comment and that his colleague did the right thing by quickly apologizing . Pence made clear, however, that his disappointment extends to President Obama as well.
“I was disappointed with my colleague’s statement on the House floor. I think Congressman Wilson was right to apologize to the president last night. I think that kind of rhetoric is disappointing on the floor of the people’s house,” said Pence, R-Ind., the third-ranking member of GOP House leadership.
“But candidly, I was also disappointed when the president said that his critics were lying. I don’t know that there’s any precedent in American history for the president of the United States coming to the well and leveling that kind of an accusation at his critics.”
Shortly before Wilson’s outburst, the president said -- in a comment widely interpreted as directed at Sarah Palin:
“Some of people's concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but by prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.”
Moments later, after the president labeled as “false” suggestions “that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants,” Wilson, R-S.C., shouted from the House floor: “You lie!”
Pence said he wasn’t trying to excuse Wilson’s comment.
“You know, democracy takes heavy doses of civility,” he said. “I think we all own responsibility for what we say and do, whether we’re on the floor of the Congress or on Main Street in America. So, I don’t want to -- I don’t want to blame-shift here. Joe’s taken responsibility for what he said and he’s apologized.”
“But I do think millions of Americans were likely surprised by the very partisan tone of aspects of the president’s speech,” Pence said.
He also said he was “very grateful” that the president spoke about areas where Democrats can reach consensus with Republicans -- but made clear that he didn’t view last night’s speech as a breakthrough.
“It certainly was an olive branch, but there were more than a few thorns on that olive branch,” he said. “And the balance of the speech was just one more speech about the same bad plan. And in that sense I think millions of Americans were disappointed with what they heard.”
Also today, we checked in with Jonathan Weisman, who covers the White House for The Wall Street Journal, about whether the president accomplished his stated goals last night.
Weisman offered an interesting counter to the condemnation flowing Wilson’s way.
“The thing is that this huge wing of the Republican Party is agreeing with Joe Wilson. I mean, they’re probably saying why didn’t everybody do that you know?” Weisman said. “To a certain and very vocal wing of the GOP, this guy is going to become a hero. So I don’t really think they hurt themselves that badly there.”
Watch the discussion with Jonathan Weisman HERE .