Aug 22, 2019

Potential Trump primary challenger has inflammatory record of his own

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is expected to mount a primary challenge to President Trump, after discovering newfound Twitter fame as an ardent defender-turned-critic of the administration.

The big picture: Walsh wouldn't be Trump's only primary challenger, as former Gov. Bill Weld (R-Mass.) has already launched a long-shot bid. But the Tea Party Republican would likely offer a different approach to the more traditional Weld, having created a brand for himself as a conservative activist unafraid to ruffle feathers. That has led Walsh to his fair share of controversy, including allegations of racist statements.

Here's a look at a few of Walsh's most controversial takes:

  • After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, Walsh told MSNBC's Martin Bashir: "We need to begin profiling who our enemy is in this war: Young Muslim men," per Talking Points Memo.
  • Walsh was an outspoken critic of President Obama and has claimed he is a Muslim, tweeting in December 2016: "For better or worse, I'm not afraid to say it publicly. I think Obama is Muslim. I think in his head and in his heart he has always been."
  • During the 2016 election, Walsh tweeted he would be "grabbing [his] musket" should Hillary Clinton win the presidency, per the Daily Beast.
  • Walsh once complained on Twitter about being censored on the radio for using certain racial slurs: "Found out if I said Redskins or Cracker or Redneck Bible Thumper, I could stay on. But if I said N***** or S****, they cut me off."
  • Walsh said "advances in science and technology" have eliminated the need for abortion exemptions that relate to saving the life of the mother, arguing in a debate with now-Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) in 2012 that "health of the mother has become a tool for abortions any time, under any reason," TPM writes.

Of note: Although Walsh was once a Trump surrogate and campaigned for his election, he has since said he regrets the decision. In an interview with the New York Times, Walsh said: "[Trump] lost me for good in Helsinki, when he stood in front of the world and said, 'I believe Putin and I don't believe my fellow Americans.'"

  • "In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade," he added. "To be sure, I've had my share of controversy. On more than one occasion, I questioned Mr. Obama's truthfulness about his religion. At times, I expressed hate for my political opponents. We now see where this can lead. There's no place in our politics for personal attacks like that, and I regret making them."

The bottom line: Walsh's history of divisive rhetoric and previous support for Trump won't help distinguish him in the eyes of Never Trump Republicans who want to see the president ousted. And even if it did, Trump continues to maintain a near-90% approval rating within the GOP.

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