U.S. Rep. Allen West of Florida says he may quit the Congressional Black Caucus for tolerating what he described as race-baiting attacks on the Tea Party.
West, in a letter to the chair of caucus, took strong issue with words by U.S. Rep. André Carson, who holds the position of caucus whip.
“It is unconscionable when a fellow CBC Member, Congressman Andre Carson, comes to South Florida and claims that some in the Tea Party would love to see black Americans ‘hanging on a tree,” West, the only Republican member of the Congressional Black Caucus, wrote in a letter to the caucus chair, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri.
“Congressman Carson’s desire to generally criticize a large grassroots group as racist is baseless and desperate,” West said. “When individuals believe they are defeated in a political disagreement, they normally resort to race-baiting, which in my opinion is in itself racist.”
In his letter, West also expressed displeasure with remarks by another caucus member. “It is appalling to hear another CBC colleague, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, say ‘The Tea Party can go straight to hell.” Waters, D-California, made that fiery comment August 20 at a forum in Inglewood, near Los Angeles.
At a Congressional Black Caucus town hall discussion in Miami, Carson, D-Indiana, told attendees that the Tea Party was working against African Americans. “This is the effort that we’re seeing of Jim Crow,” said Carson. “Some of these folks in Congress right now would love to see us as second-class citizens. Some of them in Congress right now of this Tea Party movement would love to see you and me hanging on a tree.”
A video of Carson’s remarks is generating hits on Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze.com, and Sean Hannity’s, the FOX News celebrity, has given it a lot of attention on his radio show.
West, in a Thursday interview with Steve Doocy of “Fox & Friends,” defended the Tea Party, with which he has aligned himself in Congress.
“The Tea Party really stands for some basic, core constitutional principles, and that means efficient, constitutionally mandated government, fiscally responsible government, national security and our free market and free enterprise,” West told the Fox host. “I can’t see why anyone would not agree with that and not want to align themselves with those principles.”
For his part, Carson defended his remarks in an interview with CNN. “I stand on the truth of what I spoke,” he told the cable network. “My intentions weren’t to hurt anyone or any group. I wanted to speak to the issues that concern me and the philosophical issues that concern me as it relates to certain leadership within the Tea Party organization, not the entire Tea Party, but certain elements….”
A spokesman for Carson said the remarks were in tune with many out-of-work Americans who see Republicans in Congress protecting powerful interests while neglecting the need for jobs and basic services.
“The Tea Party is protecting its millionaire and oil company friends while gutting critical services that they know protect the livelihood of African Americans, as well as Latinos and other disadvantaged minorities,” said a statement by Jason Tomcsi, a spokesman for the congressman.
West, in his August 31 letter to Cleaver, did not indicate he might leave the caucus — which is what he told Fox News — but indicated a desire to change the tone of the debate. “I look forward to having a productive discussion with you and the entire Congressional Black Caucus on how we can begin to reverse the trends of the last few years and the sense of American Exceptionalism that transcends the concept of the ‘Balkanization’ of our country,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, the largest group in the Republican Party’s Tea Party faction called for Carson’s resignation. “Rep. Carson should immediately resign from Congress,” said a statement from the Tea Party Patriots leaders Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin. “He is clearly not fit to serve.”
The Tea Party Patriots called Carson’s remarks “disgusting, hateful rhetoric” and said the black caucus should force him out of its leadership and censure him. “If they refuse to take these actions, they are sending a clear statement to the American public that it is acceptable for ‘leaders’ in Congress to wantonly accuse their fellow members and the American public of desiring murder,” Meckler and Martin said.