U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida overreacted to floor remarks by U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and owes her an apology, five congressional women said Wednesday.
West fired off an email Tuesday to Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat who, like West, represents Broward County, in South Florida. He copied to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and West’s chief of staff, Jonathan Blyth.
Under the subject line “Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman Schultz,” West expressed anger over the fact that after he had left the House floor, Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the Democratic National Committee, referenced him and criticized his Medicare stance in her floor remarks. He wrote:
“Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up.”
He was referring to Wasserman Schultz’s floor statement, in which she did not mention him by name but made it clear who was the object of her criticism: “The gentleman from Florida, who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable from a member from South Florida.”
West, one of two black Republicans in Congress, backs a GOP budget bill that threatens to decrease Medicare and Social Security spending, both of keen interest to the millions of retirees in South Florida.
In his email, West stated that Wasserman Schultz has proven “you are not a Lady” and “shall not be afforded due respect from me!” He also said he planned to alert House leaders to her “heinous characterless behavior.”
Five Democratic women in the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for West to apologize for what they characterized as a “vile, despicable and cowardly” response to Wasserman Shultz and her floor remarks.
Calling for an apology were Representatives Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Donna Edwards of Minnesota and Jackie Speier and Lois Capps, both of California. At a press conference Wednesday, they also demanded that House Republicans reprimand West for his email.
West is a first-term representative from South Florida. West’s office says the congressman was standing firm by the email, would not apologize and was waiting for an apology from Wasserman Schultz.
For her part, Wasserman Schultz told MSNBC that she took West’s message in stride. “I have to tell you I was unfazed by his email,” she said in an interview with Andrea Mitchell. “It’s not surprising that given the pressure that the Republicans are facing, they’re defending ending Medicare as we know it …. so it’s not surprising he would crack under the pressure of having to defend that.”
Roll Call reported that an apology had been offered, something both West and Wasserman Schultz denied.
West has criticized fellow House members before. Earlier this year, he stated that Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, who is the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, “really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”
This is not the first time the two South Florida politicians have crossed swords over words. Last fall, Wasserman Schultz put together a protest outside West’s office to draw attention to West’s contributions as a columnist to the motorcycle magazine Wheels on the Road. The protestors complained that the magazine was sexist.
“He thinks it’s OK to objectify and denigrate women,” Wasserman Schultz said at the time, according to the Miami Herald. “He thinks it’s OK to take away our reproductive freedom. He thinks it’s OK to associate with people who refer to women as ‘oral relief stations.’ Well, we’re here to tell him it’s not OK.”
West took offense and demanded an apology. Like Wasserman Schultz today, he’s still waiting.