Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), the conservative talk-show host and prominent “tea party” figure, on Wednesday called President Donald Trump an “unfit conman” and a “racial arsonist” and urged a primary challenge for the Republican nomination next year.
Walsh also apologized both for his own heated rhetoric over the years and for helping to elect Trump in 2016.
Writing in The New York Times, Walsh said:
“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.”
Walsh voted for Trump in 2016.
“If Trump loses, I’m grabbing my musket,” he wrote on Twitter, later saying it wasn’t a literal call to arms but a call to protest.
However, since the election, he’s turned into a persistent Trump critic from the right.
In the Times, he argued that Trump isn’t a conservative and that he’s vulnerable not just because he’s unfit for office but because of his poor record.
“He’s reckless on fiscal issues; he’s incompetent on the border; he’s clueless on trade; he misunderstands executive power; and he subverts the rule of law,” Walsh wrote. “It’s his poor record that makes him most worthy of a primary challenge.”
He noted that former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who is running against Trump in the Republican primary, is a centrist challenger. Instead, Walsh said, Trump could be vulnerable to a conservative opponent in the primary:
“We need someone who could stand up, look the president in the eye and say: ‘Enough, sir. We’ve had enough of your indecency. We’ve had enough of your lies, your bullying, your cruelty, enough of your insults, your daily drama, your incitement, enough of the danger you place this country in every single day. We don’t want any of this anymore, and the country certainly can’t stand four more years of it.’”
On Twitter, Walsh wrote that his column was both a call for someone to run against Trump and an apology for his own role in helping to elect him:
Why did I write this piece? Two reasons: First, I wanted to make clear that Donald Trump is unfit to be President, and he MUST be challenged in the Republican primary.
And second, I wanted to apologize for the role I played in helping to put an unfit con man in the White House. https://t.co/BzXJD4AfOf
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) August 14, 2019
Walsh was widely praised for the mea culpa:
It’s not easy looking back on our mistakes.
It’s even harder owning up to them.
Kudos, my friend.
— andy lassner (@andylassner) August 14, 2019
It’s a fantastic piece on many levels. 👏
— Mimi Rocah (@Mimirocah1) August 15, 2019
Joe, this is not nothing. Good on you.
You'll catch hell for this principled decision, but you're a good man for making it AND for the apology. Rare thing, that.
— Todd Breasseale (@TBreassealeDHS) August 14, 2019
It was a great piece, Joe. And my tweet about excellence — the willingness to reflect and reassess — applies here. Thank you.
— Asha Rangappa (@AshaRangappa_) August 15, 2019
I can’t believe I am saying this but... this is really great
— Behzad Dabu (@BehzadDabu) August 15, 2019
Thank you. Can’t imagine that’s an easy thing to do.
— Simon Thompson (@ShowbizSimon) August 14, 2019
Joe, please stop making me like your tweets, it's very confusing.
— Mike P Williams (@Mike_P_Williams) August 15, 2019
Appreciated & acknowledged.
— Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) August 14, 2019
Thank you for apologizing Joe.
— Southern Woman 🇺🇸 ☮️ 🇺🇸 (@sherrilee7) August 15, 2019
Joe, I don't always agree with some of your Tweets, but you're proving to be a real patriot. We need more Republicans to speak out. Great job. Thanks from Canada.
— Trevor Wade (@Margolispei) August 14, 2019
Better late than never. It's good to see more and more people waking up to the monster that sits in the Oval Office. We need all the help we can get to save democracy and bring decency and clarity back to the United States. Thank you.
— Jack Wallen (@jlwallen) August 14, 2019
Apology accepted. This is all I’ve personally ever hoped for — an acknowledgement of the role words played in the rise of this insanity. And I believe you mean it and want to help restore something far better than we now have and face under this admin.
— Katie Rosa (@K_Rosa17) August 14, 2019
Hardly ever see eye to eye with you, but I have to say you are absolutely the only commentator with the balls to apologize, and you absolutely have my respect for that. Those who won't (I'm looking at you, @JoeNBC) don't deserve the time of day.
— Max Burbank (@max_burbank) August 15, 2019
Never going to agree with you on the gun stuff, but this is solid. And the more full-on conservatives that start to hold up red flags, the more people in general might actually realize what we're dealing with — and it's a bipartisan threat.
— Michael Marshall Smith (@ememess) August 15, 2019
Apology accepted. Now lets work together and get this madman out of our White House.
— DB (@DbDant) August 14, 2019
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.