The Congressional Progressive Caucus said today that Rep. Allen West's remark linking the group to the Communist Party is "reminiscent" of Joseph McCarthy.
"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 Reps. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., in a joint statement.
They said West, a Florida Republican and Tea Party favorite who has made headlines for some of his controversial remarks, is resorting to "personal attacks."
According to a story in the Palm Beach Post, West told a town hall meeting audience on Tuesday that the "he's heard" that up to 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party. He later added that he was referring to the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
West's comment was in response to being asked the question: "What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialists?"
His office sent out a statement to the CBS affiliate in Miami explaining West's comment:
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.
Ellison and Grijalva said West's comment 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.."
An official with the Communist Party USA told Politico that there are no lawmakers in Congress who are party members. Libero Della Piana, a vice chairman of the party, said West's comment is a "sad ploy."
The Florida Democratic Party sent out an e-mail with a round up of clips about the West remark, saying the congressman "seems to be competing with Sarah Palin in the 'going rogue' department."
West once referred to himself as a "modern-day Harriet Tubman" trying to lead black voters away from a "plantation," his word for the Democratic Party.
And he got into a high-profile spat with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, his colleague from Florida, when he called her "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable" House member.