Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) announced over the weekend that he will mount a primary challenge against President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE.
Walsh faces an uphill battle, in large part because of Trump’s popularity within the GOP and a competing primary challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldMassachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection Youngkin should blaze a post-Trump trail for the GOP The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE (R), but also because of his history of making controversial comments.
While Walsh has apologized for some of the divisive remarks, they could still haunt the former Illinois lawmaker as he tries to attract moderate voters in the party.
Here are five times Walsh has sparked backlash by making controversial remarks.
Calling Obama a Muslim
Walsh on several occasions has tweeted the conspiracy theory that former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team The Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters 6 in 10 say they would back someone other than Biden in 2024: Fox News poll MORE is a Muslim, in addition to tweeting other sentiments generally viewed as anti-Muslim. On Dec. 31, 2016, Walsh tweeted “Obama is a Muslim. Happy New Year!” and tweeted several similar comments. He also disagreed with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro several days earlier when Shapiro said Obama was not a Muslim.
Obama is a Muslim— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) January 1, 2017
Happy New Year!
Walsh has since apologized for the comments but suggested Obama was partially to blame, tweeting on Aug. 14, 2019: “I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. And I continue to apologize for having ever said that. I constantly let my disgust with his policy toward Israel get the better of me. But I don’t believe he was Israel’s friend either.”
No. I don’t believe Obama is a Muslim. And I continue to apologize for having ever said that. I constantly let my disgust with his policy toward Israel get the better of me. But I don’t believe he was Israel’s friend either.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) August 14, 2019
In October 2017, Walsh claimed a video of Muslims praying in public was evidence that “Islam has conquered Europe. Without firing a shot.” In February 2018, he praised far-right Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban for saying “The decline of Christianity and the rise of Islam is killing Europe.”
Islam has conquered Europe. Without firing a shot. https://t.co/BrBC6bJdlL— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 3, 2017
Walsh has also apologized for his anti-Muslim remarks, tweeting this week: “I’ve said some hurtful things about Islam. Apologize for that.”
Yes. I’ve said some hurtful things about Islam. Apologize for that. I stand by what I said about Islamism. Thanks.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) August 23, 2019
'Grabbing my musket'
Walsh was a vocal supporter of Trump during the 2016 campaign and early in Trump's presidency.
In October 2016, when most political prognosticators still expected Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNo Hillary — the 'Third Way' is the wrong way The dangerous erosion of Democratic Party foundations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats see victory in a voting rights defeat MORE to win the election, Walsh tweeted: “On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump. On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket. You in?”
On November 8th, I'm voting for Trump.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) October 26, 2016
On November 9th, if Trump loses, I'm grabbing my musket.
A few days later, when pressed by CNN’s Jake TapperJacob (Jake) Paul TapperMcCaul says US withdrawal from Afghanistan has emboldened Russia on Ukraine Sunday shows - Voting rights legislation dominates Texas Republican: FBI probe into synagogue hostage taker spreads to London, Tel Aviv MORE on whether he was calling for violent insurrection, Walsh disputed that characterization and said, "It means protesting. Participating in acts of civil disobedience. Doing what it takes to get our country back.”
He made a similar comment in June 2017, tweeting “Screw talks of 'bipartisanship.' This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.”
Screw talks of 'bipartisanship.' This country is at war with itself. Choose your side and choose it now. Grab your musket and get ready.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) June 17, 2017
Walsh has said he lost faith in Trump after the 2018 Helsinki summit, in which Trump stood next to Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries German military official who said it's 'easy' to give Putin the respect he probably 'deserves' resigns US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE and said he did not accept that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Questioning the heroism of Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthThese Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans We must learn from the Afghanistan experience — starting with the withdrawal MORE
Walsh, who was elected to Congress in the Tea Party wave of 2010, lost his House seat in 2012 to Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who lost both her legs in a helicopter crash in Iraq in 2004.
During his reelection bid, Walsh accused Duckworth of over-emphasizing her military service, saying at a July campaign event, "My God, that's all she talks about. Our true heroes, the men and women who served us, it's the last thing in the world they talk about.”
In response, Duckworth campaign manager Kaitlin Fahey told the Chicago Tribune that Walsh’s comments “insult those who sacrificed to make this country free."
Walsh insisted he didn’t mean to imply Duckworth was not a hero, saying he had “called her a hero hundreds of times.” He lost to Duckworth by 10 percentage points.
Commenting on race and police brutality
Walsh was a frequent critic of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement after he lost his congressional seat and became a talk radio host. In July 2016, after a sniper killed five Dallas police officers and injured nine others, including two civilians, during a protest over the killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, Walsh blamed organizers of the protest, who had condemned the killings.
"This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out Black Lives Matter punks. Real America is coming after you,” Walsh tweeted. He later deleted the tweet and said in a follow-up: “I wasn't calling for violence, against Obama or anyone. Obama's words & BLM's deeds have gotten cops killed. Time for us to defend our cops.”
I wasn't calling for violence, against Obama or anyone. Obama's words & BLM's deeds have gotten cops killed. Time for us to defend our cops.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 8, 2016
In September 2017, after Stevie Wonder took a knee during a concert in tribute to former NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s protest against police shootings of African Americans, Walsh called the singer “another ungrateful black multimillionaire.”
Stevie Wonder takes a knee for the Anthem during a concert.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 24, 2017
Another ungrateful black multi millionaire. https://t.co/bpvuGJXLd7
Shouting at constituents
In a November 2011 town hall event in the Chicago area, Walsh shouted at constituents who suggested more stringent banking regulations were necessary to prevent another financial crisis.
“Don’t blame the banks ... that pisses me off,” Walsh can be heard saying in a recording of the event. When a woman asks Walsh to acknowledge that financial institutions “exploit the situation,” he moves closer to her and engages in a shouting match, concluding by exclaiming “I need more coffee!”
Walsh later said that he apologized to the woman, Melissa Rakestraw, an assertion she disputed. “If he apologized, I missed it,” Rakestraw told the Chicago Tribune.