Shortly after Roll Call reported Wednesday afternoon that Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said that he had apologized to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) for calling her “vile, unprofessional and despicable” in an email, the phones started ringing off the hook.
Wasserman Schultz aides said there had been no apology, and West’s office adamantly denied the report and demanded a retraction.
So, what exactly happened?
West said, “I just apologized,” when asked by a Huffington Post reporter about the situation in the Speaker’s Lobby before votes Wednesday afternoon, according to a tape of the conversation.
The Huffington Post reporter repeated the question later, asking about it in the context of a group of female lawmakers preparing to hold a news conference to condemn him. The Members planned to call on the leadership of both parties to rebuke West. In response to the question, West reiterated that he had apologized before walking into the House chamber.
But West spokeswoman Angela Sachitano doubled down, saying it was Wasserman Schultz who should do the apologizing. Sachitano strenuously denied that West had apologized to Wasserman Schultz and even denied what he’d told Huffington Post.
“In fact, we’re waiting on an apology from her,” Sachitano said.
Wasserman Schultz said on CNN on Wednesday evening that it is “not true” that West apologized and said his message Tuesday was “a tirade” in response to a floor speech on a policy issue that came “out of the clear blue sky.”
“I haven’t received an e-mail or a voice mail,” she added. “I would appreciate his apology.”
The Huffington Post released an audio recording of their reporter’s exchange with West on Wednesday evening:
Huffington Post reporter: Hey Congressman West?
Allen West: Hey.
HP: I have a question for you. I saw that there’s a bunch of Congresswomen having a press conference today to talk about your email to Debbie Wasserman Schultz. What do you think about it? Does that bother you that they’re doing that?
AW: No, it doesn’t bother me.
HP: They’re probably going to say something about being anti-woman or something. [inaudible]
AW: I’ve been married for 22 years. I have two daughters.
HP: So what does that mean? That you respect women or ...
AW: [inaudible] And I just apologized.
HP: And you just apologized?
HP: OK. Alright. Thank you.
AW: You’re welcome.
Regardless of what may or may not have been said Wednesday, West was anything but contrite, remorseful or apologetic about the dustup in an email to supporters earlier in the day.
It’s no surprise Democrats and women’s groups used West’s now-infamous email to raise money, but the fiery tea-party-affiliated Congressman used the incident himself in a fundraising solicitation to supporters.
In an email with the subject line titled “vile despicable and unprofessional,” West wrote, “[T]hose three words sum up my feelings about Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“By now, you’ve probably heard the story. But I wanted you to hear it from me,” he added. The former military man went on to describe Wasserman Schultz as “an attack dog for the liberal, progressive wing of the Democratic Party” and then solicited “$25 or more” for his campaign.
Politico first reported on the nasty diatribe West emailed to the Florida Democrat, who serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. The message was in response to Wasserman Schultz knocking his support for the GOP’s Cut, Cap and Balance plan in a speech on the House floor.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.