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Congress: 'I will not be muzzled'

What's worse – that Joe Wilson won't apologize on the House floor, or that House GOP leaders can't convince him to apologize on the House floor?

And instead of going to the House floor, Wilson decided to do a Web video asking for money.  This is your American political landscape, 2009!

Here's what Wilson says in the video: "Hello, I'm Congressman Joe Wilson. I want to take this moment to speak to you directly. Last evening, I let my emotions get the best of me on the critical issue of health care. It was wrong. And I apologized to the president shortly afterwards and he has acknowledged my sincerity. This occurred after a month of town hall meetings and deeply emotional conversations I had with constituents who are as passionate as I am about this issue, who fear a government takeover of health care will reduce the quality of care and increase the cost of coverage.
 
"On these issues, I will not be muzzled. I will speak up, and speak loudly against this risky plan. The supporters of the government takeover of health care and the liberals who want to give health care to illegals are using my opposition as an excuse to distract from the critical questions being raised about this poorly conceived plan. They want to silence anyone who speaks out against it. They made it clear they want to defeat me and pass the plan. I need your help now. If you agree with me that the government run health plan is bad medicine for America, then I ask for your support. Please go to JoeWilsonforCongress.com and contribute to my effort to defeat the proponents of government-run health care. Health care is a matter of life and death for so many. I choose life with health insurance reform. I hope you will join me in this effort."

What's behind Wilson's push? For one, his Democratic opponent, Rob Miller, has raised $500,000 just since Obama's speech. Wilson defeated Miller in 2008, 54%-46%, which mirrored how John McCain fared, 54%-45%. It was a closer election than Wilson had had in at least the two prior contests. Wilson, first elected in 2001, had been in the 60s in 2006 and 2004. His district, SC-2, stretches from sections around Columbia, down a strip in the Western part of the state to the military area of Beaufort and Hilton Head on the coast. It is also 27% African American.

The New York Post: "The furor over Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst on Wednesday night -- which violated congressional protocol -- threw Republicans into full damage-control mode yesterday, as lawmakers in both parties condemned him."

But some of Wilson's constituents actually supported what he said. The New York Times: "In Washington, Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina was sharply criticized by both Democrats and his fellow Republicans for shouting 'You lie!' during President Obama's health care address on Wednesday. But here in his strongly Republican Congressional district on Thursday, he was celebrated by many of his constituents for his outburst."

Democrats have dug through Wilson's past and have hit him for being a former aide to Strom Thurmond (he was a page), and for criticizing Thurmond's out-of-wedlock mixed-race child for coming forward. "It's a smear on the image that [Thurmond] has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina," Wilson said in 2003. He later apologized, but still contended that Essie Mae-Williams "should not have gone public," (which was not a direct quote from Wilson, but the reporting of the Charlotte Observer at the time).
 
Democrats also point to an outburst in 2002, on a C-SPAN show, in which he criticized Rep. Bob Filner as being anti-American for saying that the United States had given biological and chemical weapons to Iraq in the 1980s. In fact, the Washington Post (and others) reported in 2002: "A review of thousands of declassified government documents and interviews with former policymakers shows that U.S. intelligence and logistical support played a crucial role in shoring up Iraqi defenses against the human wave attacks by suicidal Iranian troops."