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Ex-Rep. Joe Walsh, a former Trump supporter with a history of racist statements, is running for president

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Video still of Joe Walsh on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Aug. 25, 2019.

Republican Joe Walsh announced on Sunday that he is running for president. The former one-term congressman from Illinois, who is now a radio talk show host, said on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos he’s running because President Trump is “nuts, he’s erratic, he’s cruel, he stokes bigotry.”

Walsh had been a supporter of Trump, and voted for him in 2016.

Trump’s stoking of bigotry hadn’t been a problem for Walsh until recently. For example, Walsh, promoted the “birther” conspiracy theory about President Obama, just like Trump did.

And Walsh was even blunter than Trump in promoting the false claim that President Obama is a Muslim.

Obama hasn’t been the only target of Walsh’s racist tweets. Last year, Walsh defended Trump when the president called African and Caribbean countries “shithole countries,” and said, “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.”

On This Week, Stephanopoulos asked Walsh about some of his racist statements, including “Obama got elected because he’s black, not because he accomplished anything significant” and “We LOWERED the bar for Obama. He was held to a lower standard cuz he was black.”

“I had strong policy disagreements with Barack Obama, and too often I let those policy disagreements get personal,” Walsh said.

Walsh, who never actually apologized for his racist statements during his TV appearance, complained to Stephanopoulos that Trump never apologizes.

“We have a guy in the White House who’s never apologized for anything he’s done or said,” Walsh said. “I think it’s a weakness not to apologize.”

In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this month, Walsh did offer a vague apology for some of his statements.

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In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade. 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 Times’ style guide requires writers to use Mr./Ms. or some other title, whenever referring to any person who has not been convicted of a crime.)

Walsh told Stephanopoulos he felt he had to run, because “somebody needs to step up.” Actually, another Republican, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, has been running against Trump since February. (Weld’s only Iowa campaign event, so far, was his appearance at the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 11.)

Unlike Walsh, who was among the most rightwing members of Congress during his single term in the House of Representatives (2011-2013), Weld has frequently been described by conservatives as a RINO—Republican In Name Only—because of his moderate positions on reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights and the legalization of medical marijuana. In 2016, Weld quit the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party, in order to become the Libertarian candidate for vice president. Weld rejoined the Republican Party in January.

The Times asked the Trump campaign for its reaction to Walsh’s announcement on Sunday. Campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh sent a one-word reply: “Whatever.”


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