U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson speaks with attendees after a town hall in Graniteville. Maya T. Prabhu/Staff

GRANITEVILLE — U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson received some protests Monday like other Republican congressmen nationwide during town halls this year, getting drowned out at times with loud boos and receiving 30 seconds of "You Lie" chants.

"I've also supported the local solicitor here, and the solicitor in Lexington all efforts to make sure that violence against women is fully enforced," Wilson said, prompting one of the loudest negative responses of the congressman's 40-minute question-and-answer session with voters in Aiken Technical College in Graniteville.

Many in the crowd of nearly 200 responded with a phrase he blurted out during a 2009 joint congressional address by then-President Barack Obama: "You lie! You lie! You lie!." Wilson in 2013 voted against extending the Violence Against Women Act.

Aiken resident Dana Phillips said she was disappointed with the town hall, adding that she's embarrassed to have Wilson as her congressman because of his outburst at Obama. Phillips said she attended to show Wilson that not everyone agrees with his views in the heavy Republican district.

"I moved here from somewhere else," she said. "If I had known before I moved here that this is the man who stood up in Washington, D.C., and yelled at our former president, I would not have moved here."

Phillips said, however, that she appreciated that he held the town hall, where Wilson knew he would encounter people who disagree with him.

The domestic violence exchange was one of a handful of outbursts during Wilson's first town hall held this year. The Lexington County Republican fielded questions that were submitted just before the event in writing and pulled at random on topics ranging from climate change to President Donald Trump's military action against Syria last week. Most of his answer on Syria could not be heard over loud boos from the audience.

"I was very pleased by the President's response," said Wilson, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, during an interview with reporters before the event. "And I would have supported the prior president if he had acted, but he didn't. Where chemical weapons are used, there should be immediate action. Because if we don't, sadly it's an opportunity for chemical weapons to be used around the world and, we know, ultimately, within the United States."

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Not everyone in the room disagreed with Wilson. Bob Sullivan, a Columbia resident, drove out to the Aiken County town.

"I wanted to get a feel for where people are coming from," he said, adding that he knew most of the attendees would not be fans of Wilson. "I think he handled himself well. You've got to give him credit. It's not an easy thing to do."

Wilson stayed for nearly an hour after the event, passing out his card and answering more questions. He said he plans to hold more town halls, saying he was disappointed the event was held during spring break for many Columbia-area residents. 

"I always learn a lot," he said of the town halls.

Reach Maya T. Prabhu at 843-509-8933.

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