U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson said a left-leaning political action group, in recent automated telephone calls, falsely accused him of opposing a pay raise for U.S. military members.
And after he was peppered by constituents' questions during last week's Verizon Heritage golf tournament on Hilton Head Island, Wilson decided it was time to go on the offensive.
"I was walking around the Heritage and people were coming up to me and saying, 'Hey Joe, I hear you don't support the military,' " Wilson, R-S.C., said Tuesday from his office in Washington. "I had to tell one guy, 'Look, you're dead wrong.' And that was a retired colonel that I served with in the National Guard."
Wilson said automated calls by Accountable America to voters in his district, which includes Beaufort County, cited his vote earlier this month against President Barack Obama's 2010 fiscal year budget, which included a 2.9-percent military pay increase.
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Attempts to reach Accountable America were unsuccessful.
According to a transcript provided by Wilson's office, the call claimed Wilson opposed the pay hike while supporting bonuses for Wall Street executives, and said the congressman was a "a rubber stamp" for prominent Republican leaders, such as House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.Wilson said he opposed an Obama budget that "spends too much, borrows too much and taxes too much."However, he noted that he introduced legislation April 1 to increase the base salary for military personnel by 3.4 percent for fiscal year 2010, which begins Oct. 1. The bill, which has 45 mostly Republican co-sponsors, was referred to the House Armed Services Committee. There is no companion measure in the Senate.
"Everyone in my district knows about my military service and my support of the military, and what's ironic about the criticism on the military pay increase is that I introduced legislation this year calling for a greater military pay increase than was in this budget," he said. "I'm the last person they should be coming after about this."
Wilson said he isn't worried the automated calls will affect his popularity in South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District, which includes Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, Naval Hospital Beaufort, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Army base Fort Jackson in Columbia.
"I think the voters in the 2nd Congressional District are very attuned to what's going on and are more than aware of the work I'm doing on this issue," he said. "I was only voting as I believe the people of my district would have wanted me to vote."