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Network Echo Chamber: Appalled by Ugly 'Shout Heard 'Round the World'

Media minds think alike. ABC: "It was the shout heard 'round the world." CBS: "It was the shout heard 'round the world." NBC, slightly creative: "The outburst heard 'round the world" and the "heckle heard 'round the world." Congressman Joe Wilson's "you lie" shout during President Obama's Wednesday address to Congress on health care animated the Thursday evening newscasts, though it at least prompted ABC and NBC, but not CBS, to grudgingly take up, briefly, Wilson's contention illegal immigrants would receive health benefits.

"As the President spoke last night, there was a stunning moment. As the President tried to refute criticisms of his health care reform, a Republican Congressman from South Carolina yelled out 'you lie,'" ABC anchor Charles Gibson announced. On CBS, Katie Couric maintained "Presidents appearing there as respected guests have been interrupted before by boos and hisses, but this was different. A Congressman last night calling a President an outright liar to his face. Just the latest indication of how ugly the debate over reforming health care has gotten."

Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: "On our broadcast tonight, the speech on health care and the outburst heard 'round the world." In the subsequent story Kelly O'Donnell portrayed "a stunning outburst. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson accused the President of lying in a fit of anger that reverberated today."

Following O'Donnell, Williams brought aboard former GOP Congressman Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe to decry Wilson's outburst as the "perfect ending to a long, ugly summer." Scarborough asserted that "while the base may love it, while Rush Limbaugh may say, 'hey, this is great,' it's one more example of this Republican Party being seen as a party that lacks temperament."

However "rude" Wilson was, O'Donnell acknowledged he "reflects a view Republican leaders stood by today. While the President insists health care reform will not cover illegal immigrants, Republicans argue there is a loophole because the House bill fails to require proof of citizenship."

In a larger "fact check" piece, ABC's Jake Tapper also took up Wilson's claim: "Would the President's reforms apply to illegal immigrants? The answer is no. House and Senate bills say any new government subsidies to purchase health insurance would only apply to legal citizens." Tapper noted, however, "the issue is more complicated than that. When illegal immigrants to go emergency rooms, the charges are often paid for my emergency Medicaid, which at least one Democratic bill may expand, though today the White House reiterated the President's point."

From the Thursday night, September 10 newscasts:

ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: As the President spoke last night, there was a stunning moment. As the President tried to refute criticisms of his health care reform, a Republican Congressman from South Carolina yelled out "you lie." Well, there's a rough and tumble to Washington politics, but so, too, is there a history of civility and respect, especially for the President of the United States. Or, until recent years, there was. Here's David Wright. DAVID WRIGHT: It was the shout heard 'round the world-

CONGRESSMAN JOE WILSON: You lie!

WRIGHT: Or at least the nation's capital. Today the President was magnanimous....

CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. The fallout continues from that extraordinary moment in the United States Congress. Presidents appearing there as respected guests have been interrupted before by boos and hisses, but this was different. A Congressman last night calling a President an outright liar to his face. Just the latest indication of how ugly the debate over reforming health care has gotten. Today brought apologizing and forgiving, but so far, no one's forgetting. From Capitol Hill, here's Nancy Cordes. PRESIDENT OBAMA: This, too, is false.

NANCY CORDES: It was the shout heard 'round the world.

OBAMA: The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

CONGRESSMAN JOE WILSON: You lie!

CORDES: Two words, "you lie," bellowed by 62-year-old Republican Representative Joe Wilson of South Carolina as the President defended his health care plan. Watch Speaker Pelosi behind the President.

WILSON: You lie!

CORDES: Visibly startled by what both parties agree was an unprecedented breech of protocol....

NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS TEASED: On our broadcast tonight, the speech on health care and the outburst heard 'round the world. ....

Good evening. President Obama set out last night to deliver a sharp and direct speech on health care, one final big push for reform. However, it was a sharp and direct comment from a Republican Congressman in the audience that made a lot of news last night. He apologized to the President today....

Now, we go back to the heckle heard 'round the world. Congressman Joe Wilson was not widely known before last night. He is now. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell cover the Hill for us and joins us from there tonight. Kelly, good evening.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Brian. I've talked to Members of Congress who have been here for decades and they say the kind of disruption we saw last night simply hasn't happened before. Now the issue that got a five-term Republican so upset actually touched off a wider conversation today about illegal immigrants and health care. It was a stunning outburst. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson accused the President of lying in a fit of anger that reverberated today....

Wilson's complaint, however rude it was, reflects a view Republican leaders stood by today. While the President insists health care reform will not cover illegal immigrants, Republicans argue there is a loophole because the House bill fails to require proof of citizenship.

SENATOR JON KYL: So if there is verification of eligibility required, it is quite likely - indeed I would say probable - that a lot of people who are not eligible, including illegal immigrants, will end up receiving the benefits of the legislation.

O'DONNELL: Brian, this is complicated because the bill, as it's written now is explicit saying illegal immigrants will not get any health care benefits in reform. But Republicans say, they're concerned about cracks in the system. An example is times when illegal immigrants have managed to get benefits like Medicaid. Now, this has caused such a fuss that tonight Senate Democrats concede there is confusion and the last committee that's working on legislation says it will try to do more to be specific about requiring proof of citizenship.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center