Rep. Allen West (R-Fla) gave a characteristically energetic speech at a town hall event Tuesday evening, where he estimated that around 80 U.S. Representatives are Communist Party members.
After one person asked him about "card-carrying" Marxists in Congress, West responded to those who brushed aside the query.
“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.”
The Palm Beach Post hedged that a little by saying West said he's "heard" that many are Communists. You can listen for yourself below:
West's camp, however, isn't backing down from the statement.
A spokeswoman for West, Angela Melvin, told the Washington Post that West was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies,” Melvin said. “The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren’t proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom.”
And campaign manager Tim Edson echoed that sentiment.
“He stands by the comments,” Edson told WaPo. “Call them what you want; they’re clearly people who oppose capitalism and free markets and individual economic freedom. So, if the shot fits.”
He did, however, clarify once pushed on whether the members West was referring to were actually Communist Party members:
We can quibble about the terminology used to describe them, but it’s clear. Whatever you call people that oppose capitalism and free markets and individual economic freedom — maybe it’s ‘socialist,’ maybe it’s ’Communist’ — but that’s the point the congressman was making, and he stands by the words.
Without identifying by name the 80 in question, West went on to attack President Obama as being too "scared" to have a public debate with him. The president was in Florida at the time, attending campaign events and speaking on the economy.
The Palm Beach Post reports West's statements:
'I really wish that, standing here before you, was Allen West and President Obama,' West said. 'We could have a simple discussion. But that ain't ever gonna happen.'
'Why not?' an audience member asked.
'Cuz he was too scared!' West responded in a mocking voice.
A Tea Party favorite, Allen West is known for his fiery language. He 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.
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."
Retiring Rep. Barney Frank, a member of the Progressive Caucus, also fired back.
"Not even Joe McCarthy would have said anything so stupid and dissociated from reality," Frank told The Huffington Post. "It's an indication of the significant deterioration of the Republican Party as a responsible entity that an ignorant, mean guy like Allen West is considered one of their stars."