Rep. Allen West (R-Fla) gave an energetic speech at a town hall event Tuesday evening, where he estimated that around 80 U.S. Representatives are Communist Party members, reports The Blaze.
West was responding a question from a constituent asking “What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists?”
“No, it’s a good question,” he said, adding: “I believe there is about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party. It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
West spokeswoman Angela Melvin later defended West’s comments – and clarified to whom West was referring. “The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus,” Melvin said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
“The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom,” she added.
And campaign manager Tim Edson echoed that sentiment. “He stands by his words,” Edson said in statement Wednesday afternoon. “But the words the media needs to pay attention to are the words of the members of the Progressive caucus.”
“They speak for themselves. Call it what you may, but these House members are clearly not proponents of capitalism, free markets or individual economic freedom,” he added.
According to The Daily Caller, the comments were first reported by the Palm Beach Post, and have been widely reprinted. “One stupid reporter with a local publication misquoted the entire thing, and they all jumped on one press account without verifying,” said Edson.
“It’s all typical west wing marching orders for their friends in the press. “Some people are going to quibble about semantics,” he added.
However, some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus confirmed that they are not members of the Communist Party, according to The Huffington Post.
“I can confirm that Congresswoman Baldwin is not a communist,” said Jerilyn Goodman, spokeswoman for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), a vice chair of the caucus.
“Calling fellow Members of Congress ‘communists’ is reminiscent of the days when Joe McCarthy divided Americans with name-calling and modern-day witch hunts that don’t advance policies to benefit people’s lives,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said in a joint statement.
“We hope the people of Florida’s 22nd Congressional District will note that he repeatedly polarizes the American people instead of focusing on their interests.”
During the same event West said President Barack Obama wouldn’t have a public debate with him over their policy differences because he was “scared.”
“I really wish that, standing here before you, was Allen West and President Obama,” the Republican said. “We could have a simple discussion. But that ain’t ever gonna happen.”
Allen West’s political opponent Patrick Murphy responded to West’s comments: “The bottom line is, Allen West is trying to make it in the press with comments that don’t even make sense…He’s trying to make headlines, get a rise out of people and not get anything done.”
This episode wasn’t West’s first brush with controversy. His former Army colonel’s military career ended after he “deliberately disregarded Army rules” and fired a gun to intimidate an Iraqi policeman he was interrogating.
Last year he attacked Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as “the most vile, unprofessional and despicable” congressperson and “not a lady.”
West is well-remembered for telling President Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi to take their message of economic dependency and enslaving the entrepreneurial will of the American people “the hell out of the United States America” back in January.
Recently West has been mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, recommended him for the slot last month.