During a Tuesday town hall meeting with constituents, Florida Republican Rep. Allen West said that 80 or so Democratic congressmen are “members of the Communist Party.”
However, his campaign manager, Tim Edson, told The Daily Caller that West’s full remarks make clear that he was making a jab at the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and not making an outlandish, McCarthyesque allegation.
The comments were first reported by the Palm Beach Post, and have been widely reprinted.
“I believe there are about 78 or 81 members of the Democrat Party that are members of the Communist Party,” West said in response to a question at the event. After a dramatic pause, he added, “it’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
According to the Palm Beach Post, West merely made the allegation about party membership and then “wouldn’t name names” — something Edson said was also untrue.
“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. “The real point is these people speak for themselves and if you listen to the words of the progressive caucus it’s clear that these people are opponents of capitalism — they oppose free markets, they oppose individual economic freedom — so you can call them whatever you want — whether they’re socialists or marxists or communists.”
The Communist Party USA, the most prominent self-described communist party in the country, claims a mere 2,000 members — making West’s claim, as originally reported, comically improbable.
In recent weeks, West has been frequently 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.
This episode wasn’t West’s first brush with controversy.
The 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 memorably attacked Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz as “the most vile, unprofessional and despicable” congressperson and said that she was “not a lady.”
Watch unedited footage of West’s comments: