Former single-term tea party Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), who recently announced his 2020 primary challenge against President Donald Trump, acknowledged Monday that he has “said racist things on Twitter” in the past—most notably against former President Barack Obama.
At the same time, however, Walsh said he does not think he was actually racist.
Appearing on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House, the right-wing radio host was grilled by host Nicolle Wallace and her panel over both his past inflammatory remarks and his vocal support for Trump during and immediately after the 2016 election.
After Wallace attempted to get Walsh to commit to supporting the Democratic nominee should his long-shot primary run fail—Walsh said he could be “brought there”—the former Illinois lawmaker was then confronted by MSNBC political analyst John Heilemann over his past racially offensive comments.
Noting that Walsh has apologized for helping to spawn Trump and going too far with his heated rhetoric, Heilemann said that for a lot of people, “the president is stone-cold racist and so are you.”
Pointing out that Walsh had repeatedly pushed birther conspiracies about Obama and recently even posted the N-word on Twitter, Heilemann asked Walsh how he would be able to tell African-Americans he has the moral standing to challenge Trump when he sounds just as racist as the president.
“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.”
Walsh went on to say that he consistently called Obama a Muslim because he was “so disgusted with Obama’s policy towards Israel” before admitting to Heilemann that people could probably find at least 200 to 300 offensive tweets he’s sent out.
Walsh, meanwhile, defended his N-word tweets, claiming one of the more infamous examples was in the service of making a point about those offended by the Washington Redskins nickname. He later insisted that he “never got into the birther stuff.”
“I said Obama was a Muslim,” he added. “And I’ll get down on my knees because that was a horrible thing to say.”
The far-right firebrand, however, did dip his toe in birther waters as recently as the last presidential election, specifically making a birth-certificate crack online in August 2015.
After the segment, the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake asked Walsh to explain what he meant when he declared that he has said racist things but is not racist.
“I think that we all, if we’re honest—white, black and brown—we’ve all got a little bit of racism in us,” Walsh responded. “I’m out there every day, I have been for the last 6 or 7 years, saying things that I believe. I’ve always been very interested in the issue of race. There’s no doubt that there are times where I’ve pushed the envelope and when I’ve said things that could certainly be interpreted as racist.”