Freshman Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), shown on video (see below) using sharp and angry language while discussing the economy with constituents, said today he was "a bit too passionate" at the gathering he hosted last weekend in a Chicago-area restaurant.
In the video making the rounds today, the finger-pointing Walsh says he's "pissed off" and "tired of hearing that crap," and at one point demands quiet and warns that he may have to ask one of the attendees to leave.
Walsh is a tea party adherent and among the most vocal members of the new freshmen class.
What seemed to raise Walsh's ire was a debate on the role played by government, banks and the private marketplace in today's struggling economy. "It's not the private marketplace that created this mess," Walsh said. "What created the mess is your government, which has demanded for years that everybody be in a home. And we've made it easy as possible for people to be in homes."
Walsh lost an Evanston, Ill., condo to foreclosure before his election to Congress last November.
Gene Carey of Round Lake Beach, Ill., told the Tribune today that he shot about 50 minutes of video Sunday when the congressman held a noontime event at Uno Chicago Bar & Grill in north suburban Gurnee.
Walsh, in a statement issued today about the video, said: "As my constituents know, I am a very passionate person. I am passionate about our freedom, fighting for taxpayers and standing up against big government. Constituents with opposing views have every right to argue with me, and I have every right to argue passionately for my conservative values. That's what freedom is all about."
Walsh, in his statement, said he had apologized to a woman with whom he had a "heated discussion."
"I apologized to her for getting a bit too passionate," the statement said, "to which she smiled and did not mind at all."
Carey, a retired real estate agent and freelance journalist, runs a blog on local news and events. He said he's written a blog at District116.org since 2002.
Carey called himself a Republican who voted for Walsh but sometimes splits his ticket. He estimates he's attended about 30 Walsh events.
He said Walsh told him afterward that he hadn't eaten on Sunday before hosting one of his trademark constituent gatherings, called A Cup of Joe With Joe.
Carey said it's unfortunate that only a small segment of his video is now making the rounds.
"My feeling is Joe was responding aggressively. Let's not say aggressively. He was very animated in his response to some of the people who came with their own agendas," Carey said.
Proper language for a member of Congress? "I don't condemn the language he used when trying to make a point," Carey said.
Justin Roth, Walsh's spokesman, did not respond to a Tribune question about whether constituents had complained about the video or the event. He declined to say where Walsh's next constituent gathering would be held.