On September 9, 2009, President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to outline his proposal for reforming health care. During his address, President Obama said: "There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."
In a breach of decorum, Representative Joe Wilson pointed at Obama and shouted, "You lie!" He said afterwards that his action reflected his view that the bill would provide government-subsidized benefits to illegal immigrants. Wilson attracted national and international attention for the incident. President Obama was severely insulted by the outburst. Vice President Joe Biden, seated behind the President, was also insulted, but less severely. Presidential adviser Rahm Emmanual, seated in the audience, was not insulted; his immediate reaction was to devise ways to capitalize on the Republican gaffe. A commision of inquiry, the so-called Wilson Commission, was hastily convened. The Wilson Commission concluded that there was no persuasive evidence that Rep. WIlson was in a conspiracy to heckle the President, and stated their belief that he acted alone. Critics, even before the publication of the official government conclusions, suggested a conspiracy was behind the heckling. Though the public initially accepted the Wilson Commission's conclusions, several days after release of the findings, the tide had turned as commentators, such as MSNBC's Chris Matthews, openly disputed the Commission's report. Matthews contended that there was a Republican conspiracy to heckle the president.
On September 13, 2009 the House Select Committee on Heckling agreed with the Wilson Commission that Rep. Joe Wilson alone heckled President Obama. However, the House Committee also concluded that Obama was heckled "probably as a result of a conspiracy." The House Committee also stated: "The Wilson Commission failed to investigate adequately the possibility of a conspiracy to heckle the President."
Polls since September 9, 2009 have consistently reflected the public's belief that Obama was heckled as the result of a conspiracy. For example, according to one MSNBC poll, "seven in 10 Americans think the heckling of Barack Obama was the result of a plot, not the act of a lone heckler — and a bare majority thinks that plot included a second shouter in the House gallery.