In December 2003, when Essie Mae Washington-Williams acknowledged that she was the illegitimate daughter of the recently-deceased South Carolina Senator Storm Thurmond, Joe “You Lie” Wilson said he didn’t believe her.
Rep. Wilson, a former page of Thurmond’s, immediately told The State newspaper that he didn’t believe Williams. He deemed the revelation “unseemly.” And he added that even if she was telling the truth, she should have kept the inconvenient facts to herself:
“It’s a smear on the image that [Thurmond] has as a person of high integrity who has been so loyal to the people of South Carolina,” Wilson said.
Wilson eventually had to apologize for his own smeaer on Essie Mae, and he continued to maintain that she shouldn’t have gone public.
Wilson said it is unfair to debate rumors about Thurmond when he can no longer defend himself.
The same goes for discussion of an affair Thomas Jefferson is said to have had with a slave.
“Sometimes these things just go on,” Wilson said. “These are heroes of mine. I really hope these would be heroes to future generations of Americans. (The stories) are … a way to diminish their contributions to our country’s existence.”