Rep. Walsh draws crowd

WOODSTOCK – President Barack Obama got both a snub and a sorry Thursday from Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh.

Walsh earlier in the day announced that he would skip Obama’s speech on jobs next Thursday before a joint session of Congress. But at a town-hall meeting at the Woodstock VFW that evening, the outspoken congressman apologized for calling Obama “idiotic” at a Republican meeting the night before in Nunda Township.

“I sincerely apologize for what I said last night. That’s not what I meant to say, but that’s what I said,” Walsh, R-McHenry, said, citing the Northwest Herald story in which the remark appeared.

Walsh, who said the remark came at the end of a long day, called it “over the line and out of bounds” to the 150 or so people in attendance.

The apology came hours after he said he would hold a job forum of his own during Obama’s speech, and just after a rally of Democrats opposed to his agenda wrapped up on the nearby Woodstock Square.

About 70 people attended the two-hour rally. Organizer Terry Kappel said its purpose was to allow people to speak their minds outside of Walsh’s town-hall format. Walsh has held 12 town-hall meetings since August through the 8th Congressional District, but Kappel said he finds them to be too controlled.

“This is just to get people who disagree with Joe Walsh’s agenda a chance to have their say in a non-controlled way,” Kappel said.

Audience member Sue Palmore said she was “embarrassed” that voters elected Walsh, and that he in no way represents her or many others. Palmore, a member of the Woodstock District 200 school board, said her opinion was hers and not the district’s.

“Every photograph of him I see, he has his mouth open, which tells me he doesn’t listen to anybody,” Palmore said.

Walsh has been a political firebrand since he beat three-term Democratic incumbent Melissa Bean by 290 votes. His frequent appearances on cable news shows, as well as a viral video in which he accused Obama of lying about the debt ceiling crisis, have drawn attention and scrutiny to his troubled financial past.

The Chicago Sun-Times revealed in July that Walsh’s ex-wife is suing him for more than $100,000 in back child support payments for his now-adult children. Last month, the Chicago Tribune also listed that Walsh, on top of other financial issues, has twice had his driver’s license revoked – the most recent time for not abiding by a state requirement to have high-risk car insurance.

The allegations came on top of pre-election revelations that he had lost his Evanston condo to foreclosure, had state and federal tax liens now settled, and that a former campaign manager sued him for $20,000 in unpaid services. That lawsuit was settled last month and the details kept private.

Walsh has called the Sun-Times allegations untrue, and accused the Tribune of rehashing old news.

Walsh is expected today to reveal the time and place of his job forum. He said Thursday on Twitter that he would hold the forum “instead of being a prop of another one of the President’s speeches.”

“Lowering taxes and freeing small businesses from burdensome red tape, not more stimulus packages and government regulations, are the keys to pulling America out of this recession,” Walsh said in a statement.

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