Joe Walsh Says He's 'Said Racist Things on Twitter,' But 'Wouldn't Call Myself a Racist'

In a new interview on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Joe Walsh appeared on MSNBC's Deadline: White House. In the interview, Walsh admitted that while he has "said racist things on Twitter," he doesn't think he's a racist.

Former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh is mounting a challenge against President Donald Trump to grab the Republican presidential nomination. Walsh has been making the rounds of news outlets to answer for previous comments he'd made in favor of Trump.

This Sunday, Walsh appeared on the ABC program This Week with George Stephanopoulos to apologize for his role in boosting Trump during the 2016 election.

"I helped create Trump, there's no doubt about that," he said.

Walsh also apologized for some of his past tweets on This Week, telling Stephanopoulos, "I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret. I had strong policy disagreements with Barack Obama, and too often I let those policy disagreements get personal."

joe walsh
Former Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, shown here in a file photo from 2012, is running against President Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee. Alex Wong/Getty

On Monday's episode of Deadline: White House, after host Nicolle Wallace asked if Walsh would be willing to support a Democratic candidate should his own candidacy fail, panelist John Heilemann, a MSNBC political analyst, wanted clarification on Walsh's apology.

"You know, you've apologized for helping to spawn Trump, you apologized for going too far," Heilemann said. "For a lot of people, the president is stone-cold racist and so are you. I can sit here and read off tweets, 'Barack Obama is a Muslim,' 'Barack Obama's born in Kenya.' I got tweets [of you] using the N-word not that long ago."

"There's no way someone, who to many African Americans looks like as much a racist as Donald Trump, has the moral standing to challenge Donald Trump!" Heilemann added.

"Yeah, and I wouldn't call myself a racist but I would say, John, I've said racist things on Twitter," Walsh replied. "There's no doubt about it."

"And an apology is not enough. When I said Barack Obama was a Muslim, that was a horrible thing to say. And I said it because I was so disgusted with Obama's policy towards Israel, that I went a bad, ugly step," Walsh continued.

"I'll just say you've got a lot of work to do, on trying to make a distinction between somehow convincing people 'I'm not a racist, but I've said a lot of racist stuff in public,'" Heilemann countered.

"Again, that's not fair ... you said I said the N-word in a tweet. I did, and I did to make a point, because they wanted to change the name of the Washington Redskins, so they said '"Redskins" is the new N-word.' That's B.S. The Redskins doesn't equate with the N-word. The N-word has a unique, ugly history in this country. To make that point, I wrote down the N-word in a Tweet. To make a point that it's not nearly what the word 'Redskins' is," Walsh said, referencing the controversy over the Washington, D.C.-based football team.

"I don't think Trump's a racist. All Trump cares about is himself. He'll throw out racist stuff, bigoted stuff. If you help him, that's all he cares about. I don't know that Trump's a racist—" he added.

"You don't know that Trump — what else do you need to know? The racists think he's a racist!" Wallace interjected.

"Well then, he's a racist, he's a bigot, he's a xenophobe, he's everything, Nicole. Because he will use everything to just simply advance his interests," Walsh replied.

In the interview, Walsh also apologized for attacking the parents of children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting. Walsh tweeted in 2017, "I'm sick & tired of the Sandy Hook parents. They're partisan & political. They can be attacked just like anyone else." In another tweet, he said "Sandy Hook Parents: Your 15 minutes is up."

I'm sick & tired of the Sandy Hook parents. They're partisan & political. They can be attacked just like anyone else

— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) March 9, 2017

He described the tweet as a "cheap shot," made because he disagreed with the parents suing gun manufacturers. The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 killed 26 people, including 20 children between six and seven years old.

In the MSNBC interview, Walsh also denied that he'd ever promoted the "Birther" conspiracy theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, which would make his presidency invalid. Walsh referenced the conspiracy theory in a 2015 tweet.