At a crowded town hall meeting Thursday night in Wauconda, U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh pledged to fight the recently reported allegations that he owes his ex-wife more than $117,000 in child support.
"Virtually everything in that Sun-Times piece was wildly inaccurate," Walsh said, referring to the front-page newspaper article that led two days of national media coverage last week. "I will privately and legally do whatever I can to refute what was alleged about me and clear my name."
But Walsh, a first-term Republican from McHenry, also told the crowd of more than 150 people at the local American Legion hall that he wouldn't discuss the matter publicly or hash it out in the media, describing it as a "family issue."
"There's no way anyone in the media is going to get me to talk about my three kids in public," Walsh said. "This is personal, and this is something I'm going to fight."
Walsh's ex-wife, Laura, filed a legal claim in December saying he owed $117,437 to her and their children. Laura Walsh had filed for divorce in 2002, court documents showed.
Walsh, who has since remarried, released a statement after the story broke, calling it a "hit piece" deliberately timed to coincide with Congress' then-pending vote on the nation's debt.
Walsh's remarks on the issue came at the start of the gathering, and the crowd didn't press him on it during the discussion that followed. Instead, they largely talked about Walsh's vote against the debt plan, the economy, jobs and President Obama's policies.
One audience member who criticized Walsh on the matter late in the evening was booed by the crowd.
The audience was overwhelmingly supportive of Walsh and critical of Obama, the Democrats and the political establishment in Washington, D.C. But there were a few people who took Walsh to task for refusing to compromise on the debt issue.
Walsh was resilient, however, and defended the freshman Republicans who opposed the plan.
"Now is not the time for compromise," he said. "We weren't sent there to advance things with (Obama)."
Despite Walsh's urging for respect at the start of the talk, the discussion occasionally devolved into angry arguments between audience members and the congressman, or among audience members themselves.
The gathering was the first of 10 public meetings Walsh has scheduled for the next 10 days.
He'll host a 1 p.m. discussion today at his office in Fox Lake.
Future stops are planned for Woodstock, Barrington, Palatine, Winthrop Harbor, DeKalb, McHenry, Antioch and Crystal Lake.