Joe Walsh, who announced a primary run against President Trump on Sunday, has a long history of anti-Muslim comments, racist remarks, conspiracy theories, violent rhetoric, and more.
And the apologies Walsh has offered about his past and the claims about when he decided he could no longer support Trump appear less than forthcoming.
Walsh, 57, a former one-term Illinois congressman elected as a Republican in the Tea Party wave of 2010, underwent a political evolution over the years, from failed pro-choice congressional and statehouse runs in the 1990s to running as a pro-lifer with no exceptions when losing his seat in 2012. Now, he has completed the journey from exclaiming he would be "grabbing my musket” if Hillary Clinton defeated Trump in 2016 to challenging the president in 2020.
The longtime Chicago radio shock jock teased his presidential run earlier this month in a New York Times op-ed before making it official in a media spree weekend. He is being encouraged by Never Trump leaders such as Bill Kristol, despite Walsh claiming last year that Kristol’s Twitter feed was “like a continuous documentation of the impact Trump Derangement Syndrome has on a person.”
Now Walsh is facing questions about his own fitness, too.
Walsh joined ABC's This Week on Sunday and was asked about racial comments he’d made targeting former President Obama, with George Stephanopoulos bringing up a 2017 tweet where Walsh said the former president “was held to a lower standard cuz he was black.” Walsh made that argument many timesover the years. Stephanopoulos called this “textbook racism,” and Walsh responded by saying Trump had “made me reflect on some of the things I’ve said in the past.”
Walsh’s comments about Obama’s race also include a June 2016 claim that “the single greatest act of racism in American history was the election of Barack Obama.” Walsh also tweeted in December 2015 that the only problem with a Washington Post cartoon depicting Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s children as monkeys was that they wouldn’t do the same for Obama’s daughters.
Stephanopoulos brought up Walsh’s claims that Obama was a secret Muslim and asked if he really believed that.
“God no,” Walsh said. “And I’ve apologized for that.”
Walsh also repeatedly insisted Obama was a “traitor."
“If I called Barack Obama a traitor, yes I apologize,” Walsh tweeted this weekend. Walsh called Obama a traitor on Twitter at least seven times, as recently as November 2016.
Walsh also promoted Birtherism, the conspiracy theory also pushed by Trump before he ran for president that Obama was not born in America, multipletimes.
Walsh repeatedlypushed the baseless Seth Rich conspiracy theory in 2017. He now claims Trump questioning the U.S. intelligence assessment about Russian interference while in Helsinki in July 2018 is when Trump “lost me for good.” But Walsh was still sharing pro-Trump content on Facebook months after Helsinki, including an October 2018 meme that proclaimed “it’s so great that Hillary Clinton isn’t President!”
Walsh also has a long history of anti-Muslim tweets. Walsh apologized earlier this month and claimed he’d “always meant to say Islamists are the problem” and “not all Muslims,” but a review of his social media accounts indicates this is not the case. He made his animosity toward the religion known through hundreds of tweets and social posts. One Facebook post shared on his page in September 2016 listed “Muslims” as one of the four reasons he supported Trump.
Walsh has also referred to a “war on whites,” said Democrats have turned blacks into “uneducated government slaves,” suggested he wants “quotas for whites in BET Awards,” claimed “millions of white people died so blacks could be free,” said “once again blacks in America try to burn their own neighborhood down,” and tweeted “I have a right to say blacks are lazy and the Irish are drunks.”
“I would have been run out of DC if I tried to launch the Congressional White Caucus,” Walsh complained in 2016. “That's not right.”
Similarly, Walsh was repeatedlyupset that calling someone a “fag” had consequences.
Walsh’s longtime association with white nationalist Paul Nehlen, who was twice supported by Walsh in doomed primary attempts against former congressman Paul Ryan, will also give the presidential hopeful headaches. Just a couple days after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Walsh had the anti-Semite on his radio show. Nehlen was a known "pizzagate" conspiracy promoter and had spent the weekend retweeting alt-right celebrations of Charlottesville. Walsh called Nehlen “my friend” and told his listeners to visit Nehlen’s campaign website.
Walsh’s own personal behavior will be scrutinized, too, including the $117,000 in child support he allegedly owed his ex-wife until 2012.
The former congressman reacted angrily to his own constituents during a town hall in 2011.
Sacha Baron Cohen convinced the congressman to participate in an absurdist pro-gun fake commercial in 2018.
“In less than a month, a first grader can become a first grenadier," Walsh was duped into saying.