President Barack Obama accepted a South Carolina Republican's apology for shouting, "You lie!" during his speech to Congress, and House Democratic leaders showed no interest in sanctions against Rep. Joe Wilson.
Obama said Thursday that Wilson apologized "quickly and without equivocation" and the congressman told reporters the shout-out was "spontaneous."
"We all make mistakes," Obama told reporters, a day after Wilson stunned the president and his colleagues with his outburst.
Infuriated Democrats briefly considered sanctioning the four-term congressman, but decided early Thursday that doing so might distract lawmakers from getting an agreement to overhaul health insurance.
"It's time for us to talk about health care, not Mr. Wilson," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Though stunned and visibly angry over the interruption, Pelosi said she opted not to gavel down Wilson on the spot. Obama, she said, was right to pitch right back into his speech and not "give it any more attention than it deserved."
"It was spontaneous," Wilson said Thursday. "It was when he (Obama) stated, as he did, about not (health care insurance) not covering illegal aliens ... We need to discuss the issues and I'm happy to do that."
Wilson told reporters he called the White House at the urging of senior Republicans and was grateful to have talked with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Wilson said he agreed with the White House' interest in pursuing "a civil conversation" on health care.
The reaction to Wilson's outburst, nevertheless, was punishing -- even without the specter of official House action.
His Web site crashed, he took a beating on Twitter as Republicans and Democrats alike condemned his behavior.
Wilson bolted the chamber as soon as Obama was finished speaking. Shortly thereafter, he issued an apology and called the White House to deliver one to the president personally. But he ended up on the line with Rahm Emanuel, Obama's fiery chief of staff, instead.
"This evening I let my emotions get the best of me," he said in a statement. "While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility."