Town hall meeting erupts into shouts, boos as Congressman Joe Wilson addresses healthcare repeal
News 12 NBC 26 News At 11 | Monday, April 10, 2017
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A South Carolina Congressman got an earful Monday night from the people he serves across the region.
Republican Joe Wilson held a town hall meeting with folks at Aiken Technical College Monday where the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act drew some cheers and plenty of boos and criticism. While he stopped to talk before and after the meeting, there were some not in favor of what he had to say.
Boos and chants fill the gym while cell phone videos roll at Congressman Joe Wilson's town hall meeting at Aiken Tech. The State's Second Congressional Representative spoke about several issues and topics throughout the evening, but his stand on healthcare drew the most jeers from the crowd of over 100.
Among them is William Leaphart, who lives in Lexington but has family ties to the area. He says he arrived at the town hall with hopes of talking with his representative, but ended up leaving with more questions than answers.
"He was pretty evasive on a whole bunch of issues, especially with healthcare," Leaphart says. "He just gave a whole bunch of different talking points but nothing really new about solutions for people in the second Congressional District."
Leaphart and many others say the biggest talking point of the night also has the biggest impact.
"I think people are so concerned about healthcare," Leaphart says, "just because the government tried to take it away and I think a lot of people don't really know what they have or what they're going to miss until it's about to be taken away. And we see that they tried to do it and it really didn't work, so I think that struck a nerve with a whole bunch of people."
Boos were loud and long, even as the Republican tried to provide more context to his answers about climate change, illegal immigration, cyber-security and the War in Syria. Wilson did draw support folks like Brandon Knight during the meeting and says folks who kept their boos going through his answers are hard to reason with on any issue.
"I believe a lot of the people who was here tonight wasn't here to listen to Congressman Wilson. They was here to cause a disturbance, chaos, disrupt the meeting," Knight says. "They weren't here to actually listen to solutions, what he had to say. I just believe they had their own agenda."
The crowd cheered after several of the Congressman's answers. Among them included denying man-made resources are adding to global warming, being against Planned Parenthood and his endorsement of the clean coal industry, potential open-carry gun laws and the Keystone Pipeline.
He did draw cheers from the crowd after saying he's against gerrymandering while also being in support of alternative resources like nuclear energy, more support for America’s veterans and allowing all legal immigrants to come to America. But he drew more boos after saying anyone staying here illegally should be deported back to their country.
Knight, from North Augusta, says the healthcare was also his biggest concern coming into the meeting and says he's all for a new plan that will save him and his family more money.
"The Affordable Care Act hasn't been very affordable to me because my premiums have gone up, the care's gone down," Knight says. "I've got friends and family in the same situation, so it's obviously not working for the working middle class."
Congressman Wilson says he, President Trump and other House Republicans are still fighting for change even after the new American Health Care Act recently failed to get a vote. He says while others around the country are still in favor, he says there's a better plan out there.
"My concern about Obamacare is that we have already seen skyrocketing premiums, we have seen deductibles become unapproachable to work with," Congressman Wilson says. "People have lost their doctors, they have lost insurance, they have lost their jobs. We can do better."
The South Carolina congressman says the new plan focuses on taking big government out of the picture. He says he's been working with former Georgia 6th Congressional District Representative and current U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price in leading a physician’s study group into what plan would be best for the country.
"By having the ability of buying insurance across state lines, association health plans and by increasing the ability of health savings accounts, we would provide choice that Obamacare simply has not presented," the Congressman says. "And it wouldn't impact employment, it would give them more choice as well."
At one point, the crowd used Wilson's own words against him, the same words he used against President Obama during his State of the Union address.
“You lie, you lie,” the crowd chanted after addressing his stance on healthcare.
While he and other Republicans work for change, it may be a tough sell here at home.
The Congressman spent an hour addressing questions written by audience members before the meeting, but did not take any questions asked by members during the meeting itself.
He also spent time talking about his support for newly-nominated Supreme Court Justice Neil Gursuch, as well as endorsing President Trump's recent decision to send airstrikes against Syria in response to last week's chemical attacks.