Florida Rep. Allen West (R) said Tuesday that "he's heard" scores of Democratic Members of Congress are communists, according to the Palm Beach Post and confirmed by West's campaign to Roll Call.
"I believe there are about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party: It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus," West said at an event Tuesday, according to a partial YouTube video and his campaign manager, Tim Edson, who was there. West was responding to a question: "What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?"
"He stands by his words," Edson said. But Edson and West's office clarified what he meant.
“The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus," West Communications Director Angela Melvin said in a statement to Roll Call. "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."
A call to the Communist Party USA was answered by a woman who gave her name as Esther. Asked about West's comments, she said, "That's the most ridiculous statement I've ever heard."
The Florida Democratic Party pounced on the comments, sending out an email with the subject line "Sh** Allen West Says," a play on the popular Twitter account, @shitmydadsays.
West faces a competitive race with businessman Patrick Murphy (D) in Florida's reconfigured 18th district.
"Every time West opens his mouth, Patrick Murphy's already formidable campaign looks stronger and stronger," FDP spokesman David Bergstein said in an email blast to reporters.
Roll Call rates the race as Leans Republican. His comments Tuesday, despite their considerable embrace of hyperbole, don't change the fundamentals of the race, which favor the incumbent and his juggernaut fundraising operation.