Just one week after securing election victory, Congressman-elect Allen West of Florida dismissed his chief of staff, conservative radio host Joyce Kaufman. According to news reports, Kaufman voluntarily stepped aside Wednesday evening after the controversial host was accused of inciting violence.
According to the Miami Herald, a warning call was phoned into WFTL 850 AM from a woman claiming that her husband was planning to carry out a mass shooting in Broward County, specifically targeting government buildings and schools. In addition, the Pembroke Pines Police Department says the WFTL station received an emailed warning addressed directly to Kaufman.
Ms. Kaufman has previously come under critical fire for a variety of controversial comments. Just this week, Kaufman described Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as "garbage" and has previously spoken out against illegal immigrants. According to The New York Times, she previously claimed at a rally that illegal immigrants "reproduce at a rate about three times that American citizens do. And that's not bigotry, and that's just fact."
But related to this week's threat against Broward County schools, many are pointing to her divisive rhetoric and accusing her of actually inciting violence.
Kaufman, 56, promotes herself as the "most heavily armed" radio host in South Florida. Earlier this week, a video made the rounds on the internet and on MSNBC which showed Kaufman seemingly advocating tough action against the government. "I am convinced the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment," she said. "And if ballots don't work, bullets will."
As the threat resolved itself Wednesday following a county-wide lockdown that thankfully ended with no one hurt, Kaufman says she called West to notify him she would not be accepting the chief of staff position. "I am confident that he will be an excellent representative and will remain a close friend," she said in a statement. But as many quickly linked the threat to her and her fiery comments, she looked to deflect the public's scrutiny away from the congressman-elect. "I am proud of [West's] decisive victory on November 2nd, but I will not be complicit in this effort to diminish his stature by attacks against me or endanger myself and others by serving as his chief of staff."
On her radio program Thursday, Kaufman confessed to listeners that she agreed to step down because she did not want to be in a position that might negatively reflect on West, a friend she called a "distinguished, monumental man," the Miami Herald reports.
On Thursday, West acknowledged that Kaufman would be stepping down. "It is with deep regret that this congressional office and the people of [Florida Congressional District 22] will not have Joyce Kaufman as my chief of staff," West remarked in a statement. "Joyce is a good friend and will remain loyal to South Floridians and to me. I will always seek Joyce's counsel for being a good representative of this congressional district," he concluded.
Though some have suggested the email and phone seemingly linking Kaufman to a violent threat were a hoax and the police haven't yet pinned down the perpetrators, Kaufman says she's not taking any chances with protecting West's reputation.
"I will not be used in an electronic lynching by proxy," she said.