“Friends, I’m in,” he tweeted. “We can’t take four more years of Donald Trump. And that’s why I’m running for President.”
Walsh, like Trump, is a prolific tweeter who has garnered a large following through controversial statements made online, as well as through his syndicated radio show. But unlike Trump, Walsh has spent much of the recent past trying to distance himself from bigotry he espoused during his time as a congressman and as a private citizen since 2013.
In an August New York Times op-ed, Walsh called the president “a racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to arouse his base” and tried to reckon with his past as a Trump voter and a successful target of this “arousal.”
“[Trump]’s caused me to change my tone and to reflect upon where I went over the line,” he wrote. Walsh didn’t specify which of his past viewpoints he now regrets.
Walsh entered Congress as a self-described “Tea Party Republican” in 2011, when a wave of staunchly conservative candidates gave Republicans a majority in the House of Representatives.
In the time since, he has found himself at the center of a number of controversies rooted in statements he’s made about former President Barack Obama, Muslims, women and others.
In 2012, for example, Walsh accused Tammy Duckworth, his Democratic challenger at the time, of not being a “true hero” and overemphasizing her service as a war veteran. Sen. Duckworth, who now represents the state of Illinois, had both legs amputated after Iraqi insurgents downed her helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade.
“What else has she done?” Walsh asked during an interview. “Female, wounded veteran … ehh,” he added.
Also in 2012, Walsh declared American Muslims an imminent threat to national security, suggesting they’d infiltrated his home state to kill other Americans. He predicted that an attack similar to those which occurred on Sept. 11 was all but guaranteed.
“It’s here,” he said. “It’s in Elk Grove. It’s in Addison. It’s in Elgin. It’s here.”
In June 2016, Walsh issued a threat through Twitter against Obama and members of the Black Lives Matter movement, blaming them for a Dallas shooting in which five police officers were killed and six others were injured.
“This is now war,” Walsh wrote. “Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
In addition to parroting some of Donald Trump’s baseless accusations that Obama is secretly a Muslim sent to destroy “real” America, Walsh spent much of 2016 advocating for a Trump presidency and speaking on his behalf on television and radio.
In 2016, Walsh even said he’d take up arms if Trump lost the 2016 election and encouraged his followers to do the same, effectively calling for a violent uprising.
In entering the GOP primary, Walsh becomes the second Republican to wage what will be a long-shot challenge to Donald Trump, joining former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.