MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It wasn't quite Joseph McCarthy waving around papers claiming to know of communists in the federal government, but according to the Palm Beach Post, Congressman Allen West claims he "has heard" there are communists in the House of Representatives.
According to the Post, West was talking to Jensen Beach voters this week when he said President Barack Obama was "scared" to have a discussion with him.
West then said that "he's heard" up to 80 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are Communist Party members, but declined to give the names of any of the alleged members, according to the Post.
Here's the question and answer from the meeting provided by Congressman West's office.
Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialist?
West: It's a good question. I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Congressman West's office responded to questions from CBSMiami.com with the following statement:
"The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies. The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself. These individuals certainly aren't proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom."
When pressed on the issue, Congressman West's office refused to back down and said because the Communist Party considers the Progressive Caucus as its allies, that speaks for itself.
CBSMiami reached out to Co-Chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Raul Grijalva for their comments on the issue.
"Allen West is denigrating the millions of Americans who voted to elect Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) members, and he is ignoring the oath they took to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution—just like he did. 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.
"We hope the people of Florida's 22nd Congressional District will note that he repeatedly polarizes the American people instead of focusing on their interests. When people like Rep. West have no ideals or principles, they rely on personal attacks. The CPC is proud to stand up for economic equality and civil and human rights for all Americans. Congress is having, and will continue to have, an ongoing debate about job creation, home foreclosures and the issues that concern working families. But we will not engage in base and childish conversations that lower the high level of discourse Americans rightly expect from their representatives."
The CPC also directed people to a finding from Politifact on the issue West was referring to in his coments.
"Just because you are a member of the Progressive Caucus does not mean you are a socialist," Politifact said in September 2011.
Roll Call reported Wednesday that it contacted Communist Party USA and asked about West's comments and got the reply, "That's the most ludicrous things I've ever heard."
West's opponent in November, Democrat Patrick Murphy told the Post that he wasn't surprised by what West said.
"The bottom line is, Allen West is trying to make it in the press with comments that don't even make sense," Murphy said. "He's trying to make headlines, get a rise out of people and not get anything done."
It's not the first time West has made comments that have ignited a firestorm. In February, West was talking about how he doesn't believe Israel has support from Barack Obama when he warned of a "second Holocaust" if Israel doesn't have the backing of the United States.
West told a crowd in January that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz should "get the hell out of the United States of America."
Last December, West said that "If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party."
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