'We All Make Mistakes': Obama Accepts Rep. Joe Wilson's Apology

Republicans critical of Obama's speech, but distance themselves from heckler.

ByABC News
September 10, 2009, 6:25 AM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2009 — -- President Obama said he accepts the apology of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., who interrupted the president's health care speech Wednesday night to yell, "You lie!" after a line about how health insurance would not be provided to illegal immigrants.

"I'm a big believer that we all make mistakes," the president told reporters today following a meeting with his Cabinet members. "He apologized quickly and without equivocation, and I'm appreciative of that."

Obama said it's important to have a civil conversation and that "wild accusations" won't solve a problem.

"We have to get to the point where we can have a conversation about big, important issues that matter to the American people without vitriol, without name-calling without the assumption of the worst in other people's motives," the president said, adding that Americans "are turned off when they see people using wild accusations, false claims, name-calling, and sharply ideological approaches to solving problems. They want pragmatism."

Obama added that he also hopes "some of the fever breaks a bit" after Wednesday night's incident.

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Wilson offered a written apology to the president soon after his address.

"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill," he said. "While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."

But today, the lawmaker -- whose Democratic opponent Rob Miller has raised $400,000 in grassroots contributions since last night -- was seemingly unapologetic and pointed out that the senior GOP leadership approached him to contact the White House and apologize.

Many Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Republican leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, have distanced themselves from Wilson's comments, saying their colleagues' remark was inappropriate.

"Obviously the president of the United States is always welcome on Capitol Hill," House Minority Whip Cantor, R-Va., said. "He deserves respect and decorum."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she was stunned by the heckling, but dismissed calls to sanction Wilson.

"I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed for the chamber and the Congress I love," Vice President Joe Biden said on "Good Morning America." "I thought it demeaned the institution."

Earlier today, the president once again took to the podium to fire up lawmakers and the American public on health care reform, and despite skepticism from Republicans over whether bipartisanship can be achieved, he continued to hammer on the need to pass reform legislation soon.

"I will not permit reform to be postponed or periled by the usual ideological diversions," Obama said today at the White House, following his speech to a joint session of Congress last night. "We don't need more partisan distractions."

"We have talked this issue to death... And the time for talk is winding down, the time for bickering has passed," said the president, surrounded by nurses from the American Nurses Association.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau's annual report released today showed that the number of Americans without health insurance rose to 46.3 million in 2008, up 600,000 from the previous year. The president said that the number is even higher since the data doesn't take this year into account.

Obama expressed confidence that health care reform legislation will be passed this year, even as Republicans remain wary of the idea of a "public option" and say they would've liked to hear more specifics from the president on the costs and benefits of his health care reform proposals.