It was a safe bet that some Republican lawmaker would try to make a name for themselves by heckling President Biden during his first State of the Union address, like Representative Joe “You Lie!” Wilson. But anyone who thought folks like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene would do something tacky, like wearing a shawl emblazoned with the words “Drill Baby Drill” or chanting “Build the Wall,” seriously misjudged them. To be clear, the two far-right congresswomen did both of those things on Tuesday night, but Boebert also managed to find a far more crass way to disrupt the president’s speech: She heckled him as he was discussing his son Beau Biden, a veteran who died of brain cancer in 2015.
Biden was calling on Congress to do more to help Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have suffered health issues after being exposed to burn pits, where waste is disposed at military sites. “When they came home, many of the world’s fittest and best-trained warriors were never the same,” Biden said. “Headaches. Numbness. Dizziness. A cancer that would put them in a flag-draped coffin.”
Boebert chose this moment to shout, “You put them in. Thirteen of them!” It was a reference to the 13 U.S. troops who died in an August bombing at Kabul’s airport during the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Several Democrats booed Boebert, and the president continued.
“One of those soldiers was my son, Major Beau Biden,” he said. “We don’t know for sure if a burn pit was the cause of his brain cancer, or the diseases of so many of our troops. But I’m committed to finding out everything we can.”
Boebert took to Twitter immediately after the speech to say she had no regrets about cutting off Biden just as he spoke about Beau, saying she “couldn’t stay silent.”
When Wilson interrupted Barack Obama back in 2009, shouting “You lie!” though the president’s assertion that he was not offering free health coverage for undocumented immigrants was correct, he apologized immediately after the speech. Wilson said his remarks were “inappropriate and regrettable” adding, “I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”
Nevertheless, Wilson was formally rebuked by the House several days after the incident. The Times reported, “Seven Republicans joined 233 Democrats in approving the resolution; 12 Democrats joined Mr. Wilson and 166 other Republicans in opposing it.”
Maybe Congress will take another bipartisan stand, making it clear that they’re staunchly anti-heckling the president as he talks about his dead son. Or perhaps today’s House Republicans feel they need to save their scorn for the next member who dares to speak ill of Donald Trump.