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updated: 11/10/2011 2:16 PM

Walsh defends outburst but apologizes

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  • Joe Walsh shouts at a town-hall meeting in Gurnee on Sunday.

      Joe Walsh shouts at a town-hall meeting in Gurnee on Sunday.
    YouTube video screen shot

  • Joe Walsh at a town-hall meeting in Gurnee on Sunday.

      Joe Walsh at a town-hall meeting in Gurnee on Sunday.
    YouTube video screen shot

  • Video: Walsh yells at constituent

 
By Kerry Lester

Those familiar with Congressman Joe Walsh know the McHenry Tea Partyer has a flair for the dramatic.

He shouts, he claps, he points. He issues caustic admonitions to "that president" and fellow Republicans with whom he disagrees.

He doesn't shy away from a verbal brawl -- as evidenced by this summer's showdown with MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews. But a web video from a suburban "Cup of Joe" session -- regular chat sessions Walsh stages at restaurants throughout the 8th Congressional District he represents -- has sparked new conversation on whether Walsh crossed a line.

A video posted on YouTube earlier this week shows Walsh shouting at attendees of the session at UNO Bar and Grill in Gurnee in response to their questions about the lack of bank regulation and the presence of bank lobbyists in Washington.

After one attendee grilled Walsh about the lack of regulation that ultimately allowed banks to bet against their own customers, another pointed out the presence of bank lobbyists in Congress and other financial regulatory agencies.

"Don't blame the banks!" Walsh shouted, using some colorful language before adding he "doesn't want government meddling in the marketplace."

"Yeah, they move from Goldman Sachs to the White House, I understand all of that," he said. "But you gotta' be consistent. And it's not the private marketplace that created this mess. What created this mess was your government."

Schaumburg resident Melissa Rakestraw, sitting at the bar in the video, asks Walsh to quiet down.

"Too many people don't listen," Walsh says.

Walsh later points to a man off-screen and says, "Quiet for a minute. Quiet for a minute. ... You need to listen. Or I'm going to ask you to leave."

When Walsh asks for more coffee, Rakestraw is seen smiling, and suggests that maybe the congressman has had enough.

The 50-minute video was shot by Gene Carey, a Round Lake Beach resident and author of a blog on Round Lake District 116, district116.org, though a 2-minute shortened video solely of the outburst was the one making the rounds on the web. In his blog, Carey called the meeting "one of the more lively meetings I have ever attended with almost everyone joining in the conversation."

Walsh, in a statement Wednesday, said he apologized to Rakestraw. "She appreciated how open these events are. I apologized to her for getting a bit too passionate, to which she smiled and did not mind at all," he said.

Rakestraw told ABC 7 she did not vote for Walsh. She said she is an independent who attended the meeting to hear Walsh's views of legislation that might affect her job.

She said she started laughing because she found Walsh's behavior unusual.

Walsh said he welcomes the open discussion in his Cup of Joe sessions and town halls, and he noted that "constituents with opposing views have every right to argue with me, and I have every right to argue passionately for my conservative values."

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