WASHINGTON -- As many as 80 House Democrats are communists, according to Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).
West warned constituents at a Tuesday town hall event that he's "heard" that dozens of his Democratic colleagues in the House are members of the Communist Party, the Palm Beach Post reported. There are currently 190 House Democrats.
West spokeswoman Angela Melvin later defended West's comments -- and clarified to whom West was referring.
"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," Melvin said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
West's campaign also sent over the transcript of the actual exchange that took place during the town hall to show that West was asked directly about the role of communists in the House.
Moderator: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card-carrying Marxists or International Socialist?
West: It's a good question. I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party. It's called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus confirmed that they are not, in fact, members of the Communist Party.
"I can confirm that Congresswoman Baldwin is not a communist," said Jerilyn Goodman, spokeswoman for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), a vice chair of the caucus.
"Chellie is a Democrat, a farmer and a Lutheran but no, she is not a Communist," said Willy Ritch, spokesman for Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), also a vice chair of the caucus.
During the same event, which took place at Jensen Beach, the freshman Republican said President Barack Obama wouldn't have a public debate with him over their policy differences because he was "scared." The president was in Florida on Tuesday giving remarks about the economy and holding campaign events.
"I really wish that, standing here before you, was Allen West and President Obama," West said, according to the Palm Beach Post. "We could have a simple discussion. But that ain't ever gonna happen."
When an audience member asked why, West said in "a mocking voice" that it was because Obama "was too scared."
WATCH West's comments in the video above.
UPDATE: 5:30 p.m. -- Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairs Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) later criticized West's "outrageous" claims.
"Calling fellow Members of Congress 'communists' 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," Grijalva and Ellison said in a joint statement. "We hope the people of Florida's 22nd Congressional District will note that he repeatedly polarizes the American people instead of focusing on their interests."
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post stated that West made the remarks at Florida Atlantic University. He made the statement at Jensen Beach.
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