The words "you lie" will live in infamy for Joe Wilson, the overheated Republican Congressman who shouted at President Obama during his address to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. Beyond criticism and a swift apology, the incident has already provided a fundraising bonanza for Wilson’s opponent, Rob Miller, a Democrat and Marine Corps veteran.
Miller raised over $50,000 in just a few hours after Wilson’s outburst, after activists and small donors flooded his page on ActBlue. Bloggers and readers at Daily Kos, a popular liberal blog, also used the site to instantly create a dedicated fundraising page highlighting the incident. The portal, titled "Defeating the man who yelled ‘liar’ at Obama: Goodbye Rep Joe Wilson," has already raised $35,000 for Wilson from over 1,050 individual donors.
Miller welcomed the spontaneous support on Wednesday night, sending a message to supporters on his Twitter feed: "55K raised, let’s double THAT in 12 hours."
Adrian Arroyo, an official with ActBlue, noted that Rep. Wilson’s antics struck such a strong chord, references to "you lie" on Twitter even surpassed Jay-Z, the popular musician who has led chatter on the site in anticipation of his new album debuting this week.
ActBlue, which has served as a clearinghouse for grassroots fundraising for Democrats and insurgent challengers for several years, just passed the $100 million fundraising mark last month. Organizers stressed that most of the money came from small donors — 700,000 individual contributors with a median donation of $50 — and empowered activists to create their own fundraising drives around issues and events that stoke public passions. As it turns out, heckling the president with false, hypocritical attacks from the House floor can energize a lot of people.
UPDATE: By Thursday afternoon, Miller’s haul topped $300,000 from over 8,000 donors. President Obama also addressed the issue breifly after his cabinet meeting on Thursday.
In response to a reporter’s question, Obama said he fully accepted Wilson’s apology. "I’m a big believer that we all make mistakes," said the President, according to a pool report. "He apologized quickly and without equivocation. And I appreciate that," Obama continued. "I do think that we have to get to the point that we have a conversation without… assuming the worse in people."