Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Joe Walsh on Tammy Duckworth: Did He Really Say That?

Nobody would ever call Joe Walsh a temperate personality; he has made his reputation and become a favorite of cable TV shout shows by saying what’s on his mind. But he went over the line in an interview with Politico’s David Catanese, held in an Elgin coffee shop, published today.

Joe Walsh, left, and Tammy Duckworth

The 8th District congressional race in the newly configured Northwest suburbs between Republican Joe Walsh and Democrat Tammy Duckworth threatens to be one of the ugliest and hottest in the country—one that will receive loads of national attention and money. The Democrats figure they have the perfect candidate in Iraq war hero Duckworth to send Tea Party favorite freshman Walsh packing.

Nobody would ever call Walsh a temperate personality; he has made his reputation and become a favorite of cable TV shout shows by saying what’s on his mind—for example, he told President Obama to “quit lying.” But he went over the line in an interview with Politico’s David Catanese, held in an Elgin coffee shop, published today.

The subject turns to Duckworth, the Black Hawk pilot who lost her legs and part of the use of right arm after her helicopter was hit in 2004 by a rocket-propelled grenade. She recovered to run unsuccessfully for Congress, and then to serve as Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, as well as President Obama’s Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Catanese writes:

“I have so much respect for what she did in the fact that she sacrificed her body for this country,” said Walsh, simultaneously lowering his voice as he leaned forward before pausing for dramatic effect. “Ehhh. Now let’s move on.”

“What else has she done? Female, wounded veteran … ehhh,” he continued. “She is nothing more than a handpicked Washington bureaucrat. David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel just picked her up and dropped her into this district.”

The last line, especially, with its image of the legless Duckworth being dropped from the air “into [the] district” struck me as beyond tasteless. As of post time, a few commenters blasted Walsh on charges by his ex-wife that he owes her $117,437 in child support payments, but none had remarked on his insensitive statements about Duckworth. I called Duckworth’s campaign manager for a response from the candidate, as well as Walsh’s press secretary to ask the congressman for further clarification of his remarks. Neither has responded by post time.

When I interviewed Walsh in September 2011(read parts 1 and 2), he was polite, patient, and thoughtful in his answers. When I asked if he regrets accusing the president of lying, he responded, “Absolutely…. That’s where you step over the line.” When I asked the him if he could see himself supporting Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee, he responded, “Oh, gosh, yes. If Mitt Romney’s my nominee, I’m gonna work my tail off for him.”

So he has it in him to be more than a YouTube sensation. The viewers of his most over-the-top performances, I’d wager, are at least as inclined to laugh at him as to admire him. Walsh’s “brash, irreverent style,” as Politico’s Catanese puts it, is what has brought the congressman so much attention, but this election year, it might behoove the Republican to tone down the venom; to filter every putdown that pops into his brain; to remember that in the district, now leaning Democratic, he’s going to have to attract suburban moms and independents.

UPDATE: 4:45 p.m.

Joe Walsh called me a couple of hours after my blog was posted. Asked if he regretted saying that Axelrod and Emanuel “just picked [Tammy Duckworth] up and dropped her into this district,” Walsh admitted he would phrase it differently if he had a do-over.  “I often catch myself when I’m talking. I meant something other than how it came out.”

“Because I never served,” Walsh explained, “I have an unbelievable amount of awe and respect for everybody who wore the uniform.” But he reiterated that Duckworth was “chosen by Axelrod, Emanuel [and he added Dick Durbin], all Washington insiders…. This is a district that was drawn by Democrats in D.C. to try to elect Tammy Duckworth.”

Walsh said that he called Duckworth on election night to congratulate her—he spoke to an aide—and to ask her to join him in monthly debates, starting in April and ending in November. He said that her “campaign” responded that she’d be open “to a few debates down the road.”

Walsh’s tea party supporters might be surprised to hear that he voted for Mitt Romney in the Illinois primary.  He hasn’t endorsed Romney—he says it’s “not his place as congressman to do so”—but plans to work tirelessly for Romney or for whomever else the Republicans nominate.


Photography: Chicago Tribune


2 years ago
Posted by ravenswood

sorry this seems like a bit of a stretch to me. slow news day?

2 years ago
Posted by howmuchwasthat

So he has it in him to be more than a YouTube sensation.

You fell for his act. He studied acting, his entire day is an act. His one absolutely right POV is nothing past eight grade student council. He has no real management talent, can not build up a community, doesn't show up to court concerning his own family, has yet to get anything positive done for the district, and a screaming delusional know-it-all is not a stable, fair representative for the people.

2 years ago
Posted by scottlt

I'm just going to leave this here.

2 years ago
Posted by pointsnfigures

He is right. She is a bureaucrat. I am sorry that she is a wounded veteran. She has done a lot of great things for veterans. All of us should honor her service, and be empathetic to her plight.

But, that doesn't mean she will be a good Representative in the House. What has she done besides use political connections to get appointed to offices? Private sector-not for her.

If Axelrod and Obama are behind her she is just another tax and spend big government liberal that we don't need.

2 years ago
Posted by Helen of Chicago

opposite of hello

2 years ago
Posted by Helen of Chicago

Ms. Duckworth is a hero who helped other wounded veterans move forward in their lives. Mr. Walsh is a loud-mouth bully, a dead-beat-dad and hopefully a one-term tea-party Congressman who did nothing for the people of the district and nothing good for the country.

2 years ago
Posted by NoBama2012

Walsh is absolutely correct.

2 years ago
Posted by FarSide

What a stretch! "Dropped in" is insensitive? What about the narrative of Duckworth being a "hero" helicopter pilot? (Check the 2004 news stories, before she was a candidate, not really true.) Would not "dropped in" be a compliment? I remember hearing plenty of stories from Vietnam vets where they said all was lost until, despite the obstacles, the helicopter pilot dropped in to save them. It looks to me like some people are determined to be offended by Representative Walsh no matter what he says.

2 years ago
Posted by naryaquid

I've had the misfortune of seeing Joe Walsh "perform"

at his town halls....Mr. Walsh is really nothing

but a flag waving empty suit with a act that would do a used

car salesman proud...He can't think on his feet and does

little more than posture and spout talking points I'm not

sure even HE understands.

He has the GALL to ask what Tammy Duckworth has done?

Besides failing to pay for his own kids

to the tune of over 100 grand, what the hell has HE done?


2 years ago
Posted by Elise of Chicago

Please, I ask any of you who've defended Walsh to name ONE thing he's done for his district. I bet you can't. And for any of you thinking of voting for him, same question. Also ask yourselves if you had a job opening, and Walsh and Duckworth applied, which would you choose. Honestly. If you said Walsh, I feel sorry for your company. If you are thinking of voting for him, shame on you. He's a joke, but if voted in, the joke is on Illinois and the US.

2 years ago
Posted by Guglielmo Boogliodemus

When she goes swimming, they all call her Bob Duckworth.

2 years ago
Posted by Zephyr88

Walsh is fundamentally flawed, in so many ways....

2 years ago
Posted by tjeff3

More of the typical Axelrod/democrat personal attack/false narrative tactics they do so well. This is just the next step after redistricting to eliminate every Republican from representing us in Washington. Wake up Illinois; we don’t need another machine democrat representing us.

2 years ago
Posted by chinld

I attended one of hie "cup of joe with Joe" and according to Joe, the most important issue with the people is the debt. WHAT!!!?? He is just another "talking head" of the teabagger right. Then he praises Ronald Reagan. I don't think he realizes that Ronnie raised taxes eleven times, tripled the debt, the federal government grew during his administration and he pardoned illegal immigrants. Does that sound like the Republican party of today? He is just a tool.

2 years ago
Posted by AdmiralJ

I find it deplorable when someone who has not served disparages someone who has.

I find it disgusting when a draft dodger like Joe pays lip service to her accomplishments, then says "what else has she done". What else? You praise her service and her sacrifice (loss of limbs) in serving her country, and then say THAT!

As a veteran I say F U.

And your false claim that Washington drew up this new district and hand picked Tammy to run against you is an outright lie.

"This is a district that was drawn by Democrats in D.C. to try to elect Tammy Duckworth.”

States. Not the Federal Government draw up redistricting within their own states. As someone who is serving in Congress I would expect you to know this. Why are you lying now? Or do you truly not know? I find that more frightening. It means your not qualified to fill that seat.

Submit your comment