Republican Rep. Allen West says many congressional Democrats are Communists

at 12:55 PM ET, 04/11/2012

Updated at 5:27 p.m.

Consider this Reason No. 41 that Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) won’t be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee:

At an event late Tuesday — shortly after The Fix wrote about how West is too much of a bomb-thrower to be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee — the freshman congressman suggested that as many as 81 Democrats in Congress are not only secret Communists, but actual members of the Communist Party.

When a questioner asked West about Marxists in “the American legislature,” some in the crowd jeered, but West took a different approach.

“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.”

After a long pause, West adds that he is talking about the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of 76 of the more liberal Democrats in the U.S. House.

West’s comment clearly states that these members of Congress are also actual members of the Communist Party, though. There is no evidence to support that.

West campaign manager Tim Edson pointed out that some Democratic members of Congress have traveled to Communist Cuba in recent years. (So have Republicans.)

He also noted that certain Democratic members have also praised Cuban President Fidel Castro. (For the record, Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush and former California congresswoman Diane Watson, both members of the Progressive Caucus, have both praised Castro.)

“He stands by the comments,” Edson said. “Call them what you want; they’re clearly people who oppose capitalism and free markets and individual economic freedom. So, if the shot fits.”

Pressed on whether those members are actual Communists, Edson said the label isn’t the point.

“We can quibble about the terminology used to describe them, but it’s clear,” he said. “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.”

Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said West is trying to turn back the clock to the days of Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.) and the so-called “Red Scare.”

“Allen West is denigrating the millions of Americans who voted to elect Congressional Progressive Caucus members, and he is ignoring the oath they took to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution — just like he did,” said CPC co-chairmen Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). “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.”

Another CPC member, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), pointed to a more recent member of Congress who accused his colleagues of being Communists: former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is now in federal prison after a corruption conviction.

“Mr. West is in really very extraordinary company here,” DeFazio said. ”He should get in touch with Duke in prison, and they can chat about this conspiracy that's going on.”

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