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Former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh wrote an op-ed for The New York Times on Wednesday, apologizing for his role in helping President Donald Trump reach the White House and calling for a primary challenger to take him on in 2020.
In a Thursday interview on CNN's "New Day," Walsh said that he wrote the op-ed "to apologize for the role that I played in putting an unfit con man in the White House."
He also apologized for divisive comments he previously made against former President Barack Obama, writing that "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."
In a blistering rebuke of President Donald Trump, former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh apologized for his role in helping Trump reach the White House and called for a primary challenger to take him on in 2020.
"In Mr. Trump, I see the worst and ugliest iteration of views I expressed for the better part of a decade," Walsh wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times, adding that the president is a "racial arsonist who encourages bigotry and xenophobia to rouse his base and advance his electoral prospects."
In a Thursday interview on CNN's "New Day," Walsh said he wrote the op-ed to "wake up Republicans."
"If Republicans don't stand up right now and challenge this guy right now, he's bad for the party, he's bad for the country, we're going to get wiped out in 2020," Walsh said. "That piece I wrote in The New York Times yesterday, most Republicans agree with me. Most of my former colleagues up on Capitol Hill agree with every single word I said. They're scared to death to say that publicly."
Walsh, who voted for Trump in 2016, said that his turning point came last year, during the president's press conference with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, in which he sided with Putin over US intelligence agencies.
"In front of the world, he sides with Vladimir Putin over our own intelligence community. That's dangerous. He encouraged Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he refuses to take foreign threats seriously as we enter the 2020 election. That's reckless. For three years, he has been at war with our federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, as he embraces tyrants abroad and embarrasses our allies. That's un-American," he wrote.
Walsh thinks Trump is vulnerable to a 2020 primary challenger, but Republicans are scared to do it
Walsh lost his seat as a representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district in 2012 to Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who is currently the state's senator. He is now a conservative radio host.
He argues in the op-ed that Trump is "more vulnerable to a challenge from the right," rather than a centrist challenger, like former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. "I'm on the right, and I'm hugely disappointed that challenge hasn't yet materialized," Walsh wrote.
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When questioned on CNN about the president's high approval ratings among his Republican base, Walsh said, "it's got to be the moral case. This has got to be a mission. This guy is unfit to be president. I believe a lot of Republicans down in their heart and in their bones, they know that. They just need someone to strongly say that."
"Most of my former colleagues keep their mouths shut because they don't want to piss off the president," he added. "They don't want to tweet. They don't want to primary challenge. Most of the people in my business now, conservative media, they want ratings and so they sing this guy's praises. What they need is somebody to stick their neck out and say enough. Enough, President Trump. We're tired of the lies. We're tired of the bullying. We're tired of the cruelty. Enough."
Walsh also apologized for previous comments about Obama
Walsh is no stranger to controversy: he once said that former President Barack Obama was only elected because he was "a black man who was articulate, liberal, the whole white guilt, all of that," and in 2016 wrote that Obama "hates Israel" because "in his head and in his heart he has always been" Muslim. That year, he was also accused of inciting violence against Obama following a fatal shooting of police officers in Dallas.
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"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," Walsh wrote in the op-ed, adding on CNN that one of the reasons he wrote the piece was "to apologize for the role that I played in putting an unfit con man in the White House."
"I've been very outspoken. Oftentimes I stepped over the line," Walsh said. "The election of Trump has made me see how ugly our side — both sides can get, but how ugly I've been. And it's caused me to reflect and no longer engage in personal attacks and just focus on the policy differences."