September 10th, 2009
04:45 PM ET
5 years ago

Town hall anger echoed in Congress

One Republican member of Congress holds up a sign during President Obama's speech to Congress Wednesday night
One Republican member of Congress holds up a sign during President Obama's speech to Congress Wednesday night

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Shouting from the audience. Holding up signs blasting the health care reform bill before Congress. Frequent hissing and booing.

hough it sounds like behavior at one of the health care town hall meetings last month, it was how some Republicans reacted to President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night.

But Norm Ornstein, a longtime observer of Congress and an expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said the tone and behavior from members of Congress are not necessarily new.

"A lot of what went on [Wednesday] night has become fairly typical of what we've seen in the State of the Union messages over the last 10 or 12 years, where it's one side jumping up wildly and the other side sitting on their hands in stony silence."

The most memorable moment came from Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, who shouted "You lie" after the president said that a Democratic-sponsored health care bill would not cover illegal immigrants.

Ornstein said that in addition to being beyond the bounds of what is typical, Wilson's comment is "just sort of stunning in the level of disrespect for not just the president but the presidency."

During several moments in Obama's speech, members of the GOP hissed and yelled at the president as he laid out his plan for reform. One Republican wore a sign around his neck saying, "What bill?"

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Virginia, was seen several times typing on his phone during the speech.

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Filed under: Congress • Health care • Joe Wilson
soundoff (154 Responses)
  1. Alfatu

    Did they actually have to be present? They look like middle school kids who just got assigned an unpopular teacher. Get over it, he's the president, he won the elections, like it or not. Act like you came to Washington to represent people and not embarass them. You have health care and many Americans don't. They need help for crying out loud. Do what you were sent here to do. This is not the time for reality shows. It's time for you all to get down to legislate and get us a good health care bill, nobstruct and get us nothing. GROW UP! Do away with the temper tandrums. Your grandkids are watching too.

    September 10, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  2. Reagan was wrong

    The GOP started as a political party, has now transitioned into an angry mob, and will die as a disgrace.

    September 10, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  3. Brenda

    The Republicans are NEVER going to support the health care package. They will always say no because they cannot relate to the average American. They all should be kicked out of office. I say dump them and get it done!

    September 10, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    The Republican party is dead meat and they know it. If a healthcare bill passes and people love it, which the Republicans know they will, and the economy keeps getting better, then Obama will be unstoppable for the next seven and 1/2 years, and
    Democrats will control the government for many years after that. Republicans have a choice; either get on board with healthcare and share the praise, or gamble on stopping reform and hope that it proves Obama is not the leader most people think he is. IMHO, they are taking the wrong track.

    September 10, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  5. Proud Member..Party of No

    Millions of Americans were screaming the same comment as Joe Wilson from their living room chairs. Our marxist president doesn't tell the truth about anything, why would we start believing him now?

    September 10, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  6. Steve in Kentucky

    The Republican Party = The Party of Thugs

    September 10, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. kevin

    A president can create secret courts, secret judges, secret warrants, arrest people in secret, hold people in secret jails. and torture them without so much as a wimper from the GOP. But let a person win a Presidental election and try help poor people and they go berzerk.

    September 10, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. beyond the bounds of what is typical, Wilson's comment is "just sort of stunning in the level of disrespect for not just the president but the presidency

    the GOP are a sad bunch

    September 10, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  9. Roger

    I watched the speech & the GOP/House of Rep. were like a bunch of 1st graders....there should be not doubt in anyones mind who is behind the outburst in the town hall meetings...NOT FOR ONE MINUTE do I belive that Wilson's outburst was spontaneous, he is from the RED state of SC & he is one of the many GOPers who has been spreading the lies about the proposed bill for health care reform.

    September 10, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  10. Some republican guy

    Dangit! My grandbabies watched the evil Obamabot's speech by mistake last night and one of them went out and bought a Chey Guevaro T-shirt and a black buray with a red star on it and the other one is stomping around the house chanting "workers of the world unite" and trying to tell anybody who'll listen about how the proletariots are being exploited. Dangit! Thanks alot, Obamabots. Have a nice day!

    September 10, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  11. Deuce

    Your being torn apart. You have to pull back, and get yourselves organised. Once you allow it... Remmember..... "The World is Watching"......

    September 10, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  12. Duck Fallas

    This sort of behavior embarrasses all of us.

    I fear a "tit fot tat" contest of foolishness amongst our elected officials that will get out of hand. I hope the Democrats can control themselves. Their counterparts certainly can't.

    September 10, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. NC Obama Supporter

    It was simply disgraceful the way the Congressman acted from S. C. This is what our country has come to just because we have a President that is not a white male. I was taught to respect our President no matter what the party affliation. I am boycotting S. C., and any other state that has people like this. I will never spend a penny there again. We just returned home from Tn. today, I will never spend a penny in a red state again. I have watched the town hall meetings against HCR and know where I will not spend my money. I am asking President Obama supporters to boycott the states that are filled with hate.

    September 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  14. Elizabeth in Texas

    CNN, why don't you balance your coverage? Are you being paid by the RNC? Many, many Americans support this President and want health care to pass. Not all of us are those people who want to tell over everyone and shout hateful things are townhalls.

    Waving signs and shouting and booeing during a presidential address is immature especially when you have a pre-planned, organized and televised response on major news networks after the speech.

    If Democrats acted this way to Bush, news networks would not be spoon feeding the public with positive reinforcement of Democratic views like you are doing for the Republicans. Democrats would be called unpatriotic and would be questioned.

    September 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  15. Deuce

    I dont care??? I know your listening Wolf. You cant shut me out.

    I know a little about communications. But I know even more about the Inquisive mind..

    September 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. Dave in Albuquerque

    If the Republicans present wanted to come across as the party of boorishness, they succeeded. And to be frank, their style betrays their substance these days. Is there one single Republican agenda out there that isn't driven by corporate lobbyists?

    September 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  17. Francis

    The republicans keep digging themselves into a deeper hole. Outbursts, sign waving, etc. They are very sore losers, they can't stand the fact that after 8 years of railroading this country WE the People won't stand for it anymore. It always amazes me that when you speak, people only hear what they want to hear, and toss out or totally exaggerate the remainder. Such children. I thought we had a group of adults in Congress, I guess not.

    September 10, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  18. Steve (the real one)

    Look Wilson was wrong! Just stop the fake outrage. Many of you who blog here called and STILL call Bush a liar! Whenever Bush spoke the dems looked like statues, they booed and hissed as well. It is called politics! It was all well and good under Bush yet bad under Obama? Dry your eyes, blow your nose and move on!

    September 10, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. unshrub

    The republicans have only one goal, and that is to stop Obama. They could care less about the country. Look at the trash FOX NEWS has on their website. Most of it is false, because all the republicans want right now is to destroy Obama and the economy so they can get back into power. They have no concern about the country.

    September 10, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. Four and The Door

    The speech was pretty much a waste of time except for some campaigning by Obama who rightfully must have felt beaten down given his popularity slide since introducing his version of health care reform to Americans. It would have been much more interesting had he meaningfully answered some of the concerns Americans brought up in the Town Hall meetings. But he didn't.

    It's still an expensive, slapped together bureaucracy meant more to satisfy liberals by punishing insurance companies than actually addressing the costs or quality of health care. Expensive window dressing.

    September 10, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. J

    That got to show, what Republicans has become, no wonder many republicans is now either jumping the ship or change to independents.

    And after a displayed of last night, I honestly cannot see Republicans back to White House anytime soon..

    September 10, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. Shibumi

    How dare the Republicans not bow and scrape to the annointed One!!!!
    Dingle Barry will surely have them knee-capped by his enforcer, Rahm Emanuel.
    Libutards should be outraged that such disrespect was shown to a left wing wacko that actually has a job (for now).
    One and Done.
    PS: Good thing his teleprompter didn't go on the fritz.

    September 10, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. Mario, mtl, ca.

    What a shame

    September 10, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  24. Lesa

    What a bunch of hypocrits! You people never said a word when George Bush was booed and heckled during his State of the Union speeches. Now that Obama is in office, you can't handle one guy calling him a liar. Why don't you watch the feeds of all the booing during the Bush speeches.

    September 10, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  25. Don

    The sad truth here is that it is painfully obvious that the Republican party is not interested at all in what is best for the poor or less fortunate of this country, only in what the rich think. And they could care less about working together with the Democrats to make this country all that it can be. It's a shame.
    Be mindful republicans; were watching!

    September 10, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
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