Wilson speaks (again)

WILSON SPEAKS (AGAIN)…. Rep. Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina has generally been little more than a right-wing backbencher. He’s never been the chair or ranking member of a committee; he’s never sought or held statewide office; and he’s not known for championing or showing leadership on any major legislation.

After last night’s outburst, however, Wilson is, all of a sudden, very well known.

Today, the far-right House member chatted briefly with reporters. Eric Kleefeld transcribed the obviously-nervous lawmaker’s remarks: “Well I, uh, last night heard from the leadership that they, uh, wanted me to contact the White House, uh, and state that, uh, my, uh, statements, uh, were inappropriate. I did, I’m very grateful that the White House, in talking with them, uh, 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.”

From there, Wilson proceeded to argue that reform would extend coverage to “illegal aliens,” a claim that continues to be false. He then ran away.

The incident has also brought some attention to Wilson’s record of how he conducts himself. Justin Elliott, for example, highlighted a 2003 incident in which Wilson lashed out at Strom Thurmond’s illegitimate daughter. Greg Sargent noted a 2002 incident in which Wilson attacked a Democratic House member who had the audacity to note that the Reagan administration supplied weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime. The claim was accurate, but Wilson attacked the lawmaker for his “hatred of America.”

Whether Wilson will remain a person of interest is unclear. On the one hand, President Obama has been gracious and accepted Wilson’s apology. Speaker Pelosi struck a similar note, telling reporters, “It’s for us to talk about health care and not Mr. Wilson.”

On the other hand, the DCCC is raising money off of Wilson’s outburst, and his Democratic opponent’s coffers are filling up in South Carolina.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.