Joe Wilson starts fighting back

The man who heckled President Obama Wednesday night isn't apologetic anymore

Published September 11, 2009 2:30AM (EDT)

Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., was pretty quick to apologize for interrupting President Obama's speech Wednesday night, albeit only after Republican leadership told him to. Now, for the most part, he's dropped the contrition and has begun using his moment in the spotlight to raise his profile with conservatives who are currently praising him -- and, of course, to raise some money.

The first sign of Wilson's new attitude was his choice of interviewers to talk on Thursday. Normally, when someone high-profile has done wrong, they look for a softball interviewer, a Larry King or a Barbara Walters, someone who'll help them look warm and human and rehabilitate their image. Wilson did choose a softball interviewer of his own, but one of an entirely different sort. He went on the radio and on Fox News with Sean Hannity, who was obviously easy on the congressman, but also pushed him to go on the attack.

Wilson's still saying he's sorry for what he did, and he repeated that on the radio with Hannity. But when the host played a clip of Democrats criticizing and insulting former President Bush (none of them interrupted Bush as he spoke to Congress, something Hannity of course didn't mention), Wilson agreed that there really was an unfair double standard working against him.

The congressman has also started a campaign to get conservatives to donate to his campaign, wtih the stated purpose of helping him fight back against liberal attacks. That also means fighting back against the flood of money that's gone to his Democratic opponent for 2010, Rob Miller, over the past day. (You can see the video message he produced to that effect below.)

Really, it's not surprising that Wilson's taken this tack. In part, that's because he really is pretty safe -- though Miller has raised quite a bit of money, and put up a decent fight in 2008, it still seems very unlikely that he can knock the incumbent off. There is, after all, still a year to go before the midterm elections.

Plus, Wilson has a long history of being, well, outspoken. Beyond his defense of the Confederate battle flag that was flying over the South Carolina statehouse, he also had to apologize after criticizing the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's illegitimate daughter, questioning the accuracy of her story.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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