Rep. Allen West, a Republican from Florida. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- If you believe Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), there are upwards of 78 to 81 members of the Communist Party sitting in Congress within the Democratic Party, an accusation that riled his colleagues.
During a town hall event in Jensen Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night, West addressed a member of the audience who asked how many members of the Democratic Party were “card-carrying Marxist socialists,” and made a bold claim about his fellow lawmakers in the Capitol.
“That’s a fair question. I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West said.
Tim Edson, a spokesman for West, later elaborated on the congressman’s remarks.
“He stands by his words. But the words the media needs to pay attention to are the words of the members of the Progressive Caucus,” Edson said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
Though West may believe the caucus to be proponents of communism, Libero Della Piana, vice chairman of the Communist Party, denied that any of them were members of the party. “I just think it’s an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy,” Piana said in an interview with Politico.
Rep. Raul M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Progressive Caucus, slammed West’s comments.
“Allen West is denigrating the millions of Americans who voted to elect congressional Progressive Caucus members,” Grijalva said. “And he is ignoring the oath they took to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution — just like he did.”
West, a favorite of the tea party who has recently been suggested as a possible vice presidential candidate by Sarah Palin and Herman Cain, also had some strong words for President Obama.
"I really wish that, standing here before you, were Allen West and President Obama," West told the crowd of 100. "We could have a simple discussion. But that ain't ever gonna happen."
A member of the audience asked why, and West responded, “Because he was too scared!”
Watch West’s remarks below.