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. Dan, TX

    I'm angry at the republican party. I have always considered myself to have conservative values, but I don't share any values with the republican party of today.

    September 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Scott, Tucson

    Mr. Ornstein fails to mention here the fact that the democratic congress have heckled and booed President Bush during one of his State of the Union speech. And when you compare whats in this health care bill to what Obama is trying to say to the American people, he is lying to us.

    September 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  3. Lori in St. Pete

    No Mr. Ornstein, the behavior last night was nothing like that of the last 10 or 12 years, but considering you're "an expert at the American Enterprise Institute" your apologist "they did it too" diatribe is understandable. In the past, the "side jumping up wildly" were the same party as the president, and they were giving him standing-o's. Those "sitting on their hands in stony silence" were the minority who, while they may not have agreed with the party in power, were grownups with the decorum and decency to respect the office of the president. Save it for the double-digit IQ mouth breathers at faux.

    September 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  4. Harry H.

    What a bunch of raving lunatics...the GOP has gone mad. Why can't they jump in an offer help or solutions if they don't like what's going on????? Good grief, is it the fact that Obama has a clue and won't accept the same ole crap killing them to the point where they can't respond? Hey, OLD MEN....face it. If you have a brain, us it and let's get out country moving.

    September 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  5. Matt

    Why does CNN not have any news on the new ACORN undercover video?

    September 10, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  6. Matt

    It's about time someone starting standing up to Obama and his socialist policies! Joe might have disrespected the Office, but he is only echoing the sentiments of mainstream America. January 20, 2013... the End of an Error!!

    September 10, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. Elle

    After last night, anyone who is a Republican should be ashamed.
    President Obama has been fair and open, providing genuine efforts for bi-partisan consensus to fix the get-rich Insurance Companies health care system

    the hateful lies and poisonous words that are coming from the Republicans should make anyone leaning toward the Right and those in the Center realize that this poison is probably based on racism and fear.
    Hannity and Rush Limbaugh and others are cancerous, rancorous individuals, given the platform to speak lies and encourage unfounded fear. Shame on Fox News.

    Remember the "Government" is us. Please support our President..God Bless the USA and President Obama

    September 10, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    At some point the GOP is going to have to pick a leader who will be required to face off with President Obama in 2012. At this point, there isn't anyone available, nor do I see any qualified candidates emerging.

    Acting like overgrown babies throwing tantrums surely doesn't help the GOP cause any . . . keep up the good work, though, Limbaugh, FOX, and others - you're doing a great job destroying your own party credibility.

    September 10, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. jules sand-perkins

    Of course the opposition does that.
    It's not as if it were a church service to worship the President.

    September 10, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. Post always rejected by CNN

    I do believe that the republicans are the ones who are disrespectful. They sent thugs out to the town hall meetings. Their preachers are ranting and raving for Obama to get brain cancer and have his teeth knocked out...nowhere absolutely postively do you see any of the democratic side of the equation acting like this. Tell me when did a democrat take a gun to one of bush's meetings. Heck if you wore a TShirt that said you didn't like bush you got hustled to jail. So we know where this hate is coming from. Whenever the republicans don't get their way about everything it starts. The act like the public is of no consquence and they and big business is what the country tax money and services should be for....they are disgusting. Low class and lack of character show and the republicans are all full of it.

    September 10, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  11. Crazy Harry

    Would you expect any more from our the republican party. They have absolutely no interest in working with anyone on anything that the president supports.

    What has become of our country? Is there no more respect and civility?

    September 10, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  12. Bleebo

    Simple minded old men. Grow up!!!!!

    September 10, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. eolufemi

    I think the elephant in the room is race, and I think the media has to stop sticking its head in the ground. And, realize many, not all, but many of the people yelling at the president are simply bigots.

    September 10, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Brinnie

    Thank heavens for men like Wilson. Obama is a socialist who will break us at our very foundation. Wake up America – before it's too late.

    September 10, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. Robert

    Hey look, everytime a republican goes overboard and uses enciting behavior about a specific provision of the proposal the MSM starts asking questions, and lo and behold, the public becomes aware of the issue. It happened with the death squads comment, and now with the liar comment. Gibbs bascially acknowledged today that there is no way to prevent illegals from entering the system. So while the tactics may be harsh, the comments speak the truth, and it works. The ends justify the means.

    If our press was doing their job, we wouldn't have to stoop to some questionable means. But at the end of the day, we have to say something over-the-top to get any attention. The amazing thing is that Obama repeatedly called republicans liars and said he would call out the liars. I wonder if his name is now at the top of the list?

    September 10, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  16. Gaston

    It is time the sane portion of the GOP steps up to the plate & help President Obama, as for the rest of the fanatical, fundamentalist Taliban GOP zealots who engage in grandstanding, bashing immigrants- they can pick up their marbles & go home

    September 10, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  17. Go for the whole package President Obama!

    Sir, your speech last night again extended a hand to the Republicans in the House to work with you and the Democrats to make health care work for everyone. It appears that you have yet again been rejected. The American people are sick to death of these people, who are so deeply in the pockets of the insurance industry that they have lost sight of why they are in Washington. Namely to work to make our country better for everyone. At this point, I strongly urge you to push them aside and push the bill forward that YOU want, that we ALL want. Get your Democratic colleagues in line, and push the bill through. Forget the Republicans. They have forgotten us.

    September 10, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  18. ali

    I really am supprised alot of you are reacting the way you are. Big deal theman called him a lair. I get it was disrespectfull , but ask him to step down . Then I keep hear hes a racist O come on you are doing the same thing as him calling Obama a lier. Do you know this man is he a racist? It's reall easy for all you to pull the race card isnt it. The man is a lier and if you did research on Obama and stopped lisening to all the bs you would see it. I for one am happy someone finally called him for what he is.

    September 10, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. Robert

    Demagaugs, you are all demagaugs. Don't attack Wilson, address his comment. He is right, and it kills you. You should have heard Gibbs today try to brush off questioning on whether or not illegals would have access to the system.

    Palin was right about the "death squads" and the democrats where forced to take that provision out of the bill. They will now be forced to include some sort of provision that allows for the verification of citizenship.

    Thank you republican's, you help keep the transfer of wealth to a minimum.

    September 10, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Richard

    How could the Republicans NOT speak out during the speach. I'm suprised more of them weren't vomitting in the aisles! I know I wanted to. It's hard not to when you listen to such an incredible liar. The difference between him and Bush is his complexion and ability to speak. Otherwise, they're both the worst things that have happened to this country in its history.

    September 10, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Eunice

    This is very disrespectful. This started during the election with the repubs allowing this kind of hatred to start. They continued with the town hall meetings and the questions regarding the President speech to the children in the USA. This dislike of the first Black President of the USA is putting a light on the racism that continue in this country. Most of the repubs never ever call the man President. They call him Obama only.

    September 10, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  22. FAYE, NV

    These officers were elected to represent the people and the disrespect they have shown is not only defiant but nasty and cruel.

    Their lack of respect is beyond anything I've ever witness in my life. The Repubican states wanting to work together for the sake of the people and all they do is criticize the president and spread fear. They are not reaching across the aisles. The GOP is against us American having healthcare is because of this president, not because its a bad idea.

    September 10, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  23. cgillette369

    time to change the system of gov't in DC. president has to be questioned once a month by congress.

    all congress has to stand for vote of confidence. all member need to be term limited.

    ALL CZARS need to depart for Russia on the first flight out.

    September 10, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  24. Mary

    Joe Wilson is a pig and does not belong in congress. The republicans are endangering our democracy when they show such disrespect for the office of the president.they need to remember that obama was elected by a majority of Americans and he deserves our respect and support.

    September 10, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. slp

    Obama is a liar. He was just stating the obvious. This president is totally changing this country and what it stands for and not for the better I might add. Emotions are bound to be running high. Those of you who think Obama is so honest and caring will know better one day.

    September 10, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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