WASHINGTON -- Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) said Tuesday that he doesn't have any regrets about saying last week that as many as 80 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party, an incident that drew harsh criticisms.
"No, I don't regret it whatsoever," West said in response to a reporter asking about his comment. The freshman Republican, who took the question while participating in a panel discussion at conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, then proceeded to double down in his belief about liberal Democrats being communists.
"I think that if you would take the time to study the political spectrum of ideologies, you'd understand that, at the turn of the century, American communists renamed themselves as progressives," he said. "If you studied the Woodrow Wilson administration, people referred to the Woodrow Wilson administration as a progressive administration."
West landed in hot water last week for telling constituents in a town hall meeting that lawmakers in the Congressional Progressive Caucus are members of the Communist Party. His remarks sparked outrage among scores of Democrats, including Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), who said "not even Joe McCarthy would have said anything so stupid."
But on Tuesday, West sought to strengthen the connection by pointing out that members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have pushed for a constitutional amendment to "redistribute wealth" in the country. West was apparently referring to a House Joint Resolution introduced in 2011 by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) that would have required Congress to tax all people progressively in proportion to their income. Many of its cosponsors were members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
"So I stand by what I'm saying," he continued. "It's very interesting that people on the left are not debating the point that I made. They just don't like the fact that it was made."
Asked by a reporter if he truly believes that Democrats are communists, West appeared to get agitated.
"Look, okay, you want to talk about creating and expanding a welfare state? Look at Inauguration Day, how many people were on food stamps. Look at Inauguration Day, how many people were in poverty and look at where we are today," he said. West calculated that 32 million people were on food stamps on the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated, in January 2009, as compared to 46 million people now. He also calculated that 39.8 million people lived in poverty on the day Obama was inaugurated, compared to 46.2 million now.
"That's what I'm talking about. Creating and expanding a welfare state," West said. "So folks, do your research, understand these ideologies."
He added, "I'm not going to back down. I'm not going to be afraid about the fact that I called a spade 'a spade.'"