WASHINGTON -- The House refused Tuesday to reprimand Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) for repeated comments last week comparing Democrats to Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
"If Joseph Goebbels was around, he'd be very proud of the Democrat Party because they have an incredible propaganda machine," West said last week. He then repeated the claim in a letter to Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) after Conyers took West to task for the comment.
Goebbels was the Third Reich's minister of public enlightenment and propaganda and a key architect of the Holocaust, in which some 6 million Jews were killed.
West, who represents a large Jewish population in a district that includes Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, was sharply criticized by Jewish groups for comparing a mainstream American political party to a genocidal regime that sought the extermination of whole peoples.
After both the National Jewish Democratic Council and the Anti-Defamation League strongly objected to West's statement, the congressman defended his words, telling reporters, "I'm talking about propaganda. ... Don't start taking my words and twisting it around."
But House Republicans on Tuesday blocked an attempt by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) to reprimand West by bringing a privileged resolution.
"The outrageous and insensitive remarks made by Rep. West have no place in our nation's political discourse," said Edwards in a statement. "This privileged resolution states clearly that this distasteful behavior cannot and will not be tolerated in the House of Representatives.
"The American people demand and deserve true leaders who are willing to work together to solve the nation's economic and fiscal challenges," Edwards continued. "I ask my Congressional Colleagues to join me in sending a clear message that we share that priority."
House members voted along party lines, 231 to 188, to table the motion, effectively killing it.
Before the vote, West's camp strongly objected to the effort, calling it a below-the-belt attack on the congressman.
"The Members of the Democrat party have stooped to a new level in their attempts to bring down Rep. West, who they have deemed a threat to their power," West spokeswoman Angela Sachitano said in a statement, according to the Palm Beach Post. "Here we are in the midst of serious Congressional business, and they are focusing their energy on Rep. West. Rep West has no comment at this time."
Asked after the vote about the attempt to reprimand him, West would only shrug. When pressed, he told HuffPost, "Merry Christmas."
Additional reporting by Nick Wing