Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst last week is drawing new recriminations from his colleagues, with a member of the Congressional Black Caucus suggesting that a failure to rebuke the South Carolina Republican is tantamount to supporting the most blatant form of organized racism in American history.
In an obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will put on "white hoods and ride through the countryside" if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.
The charged comments come as the House is preparing to take further action against Wiilson. House Democratic leaders decided to formally discipline him Tuesday afternoon for jeering President Obama during last week's joint session of Congress.
Wilson bellowed "You lie!" as Obama delivered his address.
The punishment is expected take the form of a "resolution of disapproval," which is a milder version of other more traditional means of congressional discipline. Wilson can avoid the slap on the wrist by apologizing to his colleagues on the House floor, but Wilson -- who already apologized directly to the White House -- has said that's not going to happen.
While he has been widely condemned by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for breaching protocol, some have gone a step further and accused Wilson of being racially motivated.
Johnson seemed to reference the protests held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in making his claim. While many protesters were there to demonstrate against big government and federal over-spending, Johnson argued that a "fringe" element is motivated by race and that Wilson's behavior is a "wink" to that fringe.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in her column Sunday that Wilson's outburst convinced her that racial angst is the underlying motive among Obama critics like Wilson.
"I've been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer ... had much to do with race," she wrote. "But Wilson's shocking disrespect for the office of the president -- no Democrat ever shouted 'liar' at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq -- convinced me: Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it."
Dowd wrote that Wilson "clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber."
Asked about the claim, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said race is not the factor.
But it is against House rules to call the president a "liar" or accuse him of "lying" when the House is in session, which is the basis for the punishment Tuesday.
"We're not the British parliament for a reason," said Kristie Greco, spokeswoman for House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-S.C.,."Ignoring the issue sets a precedent for bad behavior."
Greco described the resolution as "direct" and "non-partisan."
"It goes directly to conduct on the House floor," Greco said.
Most Democrats in the House appear poised to sanction Wilson. But many Republicans argue that since Wilson has already apologized, this step is unnecessary. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., opposed punishing Wilson until Clyburn and other Democratic leaders persuaded her to change her mind.
Critics say Democrats are only prolonging the issue and hurting themselves by pushing for further action against Wilson. Republicans may use the Wilson resolution to try to embarrass Democrats Tuesday, by bringing up the alleged ethical lapses of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., or Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., or others.
The resolution is "privileged," meaning whenever it is introduced the measure goes to the front of the legislative line. It is unclear who will call up the measure.
A "resolution of disapproval" is not one of the four forms of discipline typically meted out in the House. The most commonly used means of punishment are expulsion, censure, reprimand or fine.
For instance, in 1997, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was both reprimanded and fined for his book deal. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., was reprimanded in 1990 for ethical breaches tied to a male prostitute. Republicans tried to censure Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., in 2007 for comments he made on the House floor about President Bush. But Democrats voted to set aside that effort.
A simple majority vote is needed to approve the resolution against Wilson
A quote left in the comment section on this topic...pretty much sums it up IMO.author unknown"Let me see if I can put this together in my weak little racist mind.....someone calls a half-black man a liar when the facts show him to be a liar and that makes him racist? Which part of the half-black man does he hate? The white part or the black part? Or maybe he hates the liar part and race has nothing to do with it.......I hate to be the one to tell you this but the charge of racisim no longer resonates with white people. They have heard it as an excuse for every failure on the part of the black community for far too long...get over it! That excuse will no longer fly. Obama would be a liar and a communist if he was half-martian and half-sea turtle...his color is irrelevant."