In an obvious reference to the Ku Klux Klan, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., said Tuesday that people will be putting on "white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside" if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.
The charged comments come as the House is preparing to take further action against Wiilson. House Democratic leaders decided to formally discipline him Tuesday afternoon for jeering President Obama during last week's joint session of Congress.
Wilson bellowed "You lie!" as Obama delivered his address.
The punishment is expected take the form of a "resolution of disapproval," which is a milder version of other more traditional means of congressional discipline. Wilson can avoid the slap on the wrist by apologizing to his colleagues on the House floor, but Wilson -- who already apologized directly to the White House -- has said that's not going to happen.
While he has been widely condemned by colleagues on both sides of the aisle for breaching protocol, some have gone a step further and accused Wilson of being racially motivated.
Johnson seemed to reference the protests held in Washington, D.C., on Saturday in making his claim. While many protesters were there to demonstrate against big government and federal over-spending, Johnson argued that a "fringe" element is motivated by race and that Wilson's behavior is a "wink" to that fringe.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in her column Sunday that Wilson's outburst convinced her that racial angst is the underlying motive among Obama critics like Wilson.
"I've been loath to admit that the shrieking lunacy of the summer ... had much to do with race," she wrote. "But Wilson's shocking disrespect for the office of the president -- no Democrat ever shouted 'liar' at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq -- convinced me: Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it."
Dowd wrote that Wilson "clearly did not like being lectured and even rebuked by the brainy black president presiding over the majestic chamber."
Asked about the claim, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said race is not the factor.
But it is against House rules to call the president a "liar" or accuse him of "lying" when the House is in session, which is the basis for the punishment Tuesday."
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