Weather Updates

Brown: Voters can decide if it’s true that Walsh was a deadbeat dad or just a deadbeat

Updated: November 25, 2012 11:55AM

Congressman Joe Walsh said Tuesday he was “shocked and disappointed” when his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth began airing campaign commercials this week lambasting him as “Deadbeat Joe”— over past issues of unpaid child support and other financial problems.

Walsh was so shocked that he made a rare downtown appearance, thereby maximizing news coverage, to trot out his 25-year-old son, Joey, who protested the ads as a “vicious negative attack” on their family and demanding that Duckworth pull them in fairness to his younger brother and sister.

It was all a little hard to swallow, not as pertains to the son, who I’m sure was genuinely offended and wanted to defend his dad, who he called a “wonderful father” but definitely from Walsh, who had to know this day was coming.

I’d say it’s been a near certainty since the first story appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times last year about Walsh’s ex-wife alleging in court that the then newly elected Tea Party favorite owed her $117,000 in back child support but had loaned his campaign $35,000.

While Walsh and his ex-wife eventually reached a settlement and issued a joint statement attesting he was no “deadbeat dad,” only a fool would have thought that was the end of the matter politically.

The only surprise was that Duckworth waited this close to the election to raise the deadbeat issue and that she did so directly through her own campaign instead of hiding behind one of those “independent” Super-PACs, as is the norm this year.

I feel bad for the three Walsh children — Joey, a 21-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old high school son — who certainly haven’t done anything to deserve being in the middle of the political rough-and-tumble.

But the issues raised by Duckworth are fair game in regards to Walsh’s personal character, clearly reflect only on him and not his children, and are well within the ability of voters to sort out for themselves.

Most sophisticated politicians I know would have sat down with their family before the election season ever started and explained that the child support stuff was going to come up in the campaign at some point and that they should expect to see it in commercials.

And when having that conversation with their family, I think most politicians would try to assure their kids that if their opponent were to go down that road, they should not see it as an attack on them.

Walsh insisted Tuesday that he thought he’d put the child support matter permanently to rest in April by working out the dispute privately with his ex-wife, Laura Walsh.

“For [Duckworth] to now attack my family on an issue that has already been resolved is a new low that I had hoped would not be reached by her,” Walsh said.

In April, the Walshes issued a joint statement reading in part: “We now agree that Joe is not and was not a ‘deadbeat dad’ and does not owe child support.”

Please note it did not say that he hadn’t owed child support or disclose whether Walsh was required to make any payments to settle the matter.

Voters know that divorced couples fight over money. And they also probably realize that if a father has a good-paying job, like being a congressman, he’ll be in a much better position to meet any financial obligations than if his former spouse does something to cost him the job.

For someone so determined to shield his family, it was notable that was the first time during the general election campaign that Walsh had a held a news conference downtown instead of in the suburbs.

Joey Walsh said it was only at his insistence that his father agreed to let him face the media on behalf of his siblings.

Duckworth’s ads are “so hurtful to the three of us I felt I had no other choice,” Joey Walsh said. “This is beyond attacking him. This is hurting the three of us kids. My brother has to go to high school and these millions [of dollars] in TV ads, all the kids in his school are seeing this. How does that make him feel?”

Joey Walsh said both of his parents were always there for their children.

His father said he has never hidden the financial problems — including unpaid bills, a home foreclosure and tax liens — that plagued him before his election to Congress in 2010.

Voters can decide for themselves whether it’s true that Walsh was a deadbeat dad — or just a deadbeat.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.