Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) visited Chicago on Monday and took the opportunity to re-inject himself into an ongoing debate over Chick-fil-A and the fast food chain president's comments about gay marriage.
“I had to come up from down South because I wanted to try to open up a Chick-fil-A franchise here in Chicago,” West said in an interview with CNBC's Rick Santelli from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade.
His office later told Politicker that he was only "joking" about looking into opening a Chick-fil-A franchise, but the implications of his comments were clear nonetheless.
Earlier this month, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy, a well-known Christian and backer of anti-gay religious organizations, told an interviewer that he was "guilty as charged" when it came to his opposition to marriage equality.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," he said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that ... we know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles."
“Chick-fil-A’s values are not Chicago values," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. "They’re not respectful of our residents, our neighbors and our family members. And if you’re gonna be part of the Chicago community, you should reflect Chicago values.”
He later clarified that he wouldn't move to block the restaurant's expansion in the city, but said he didn't regret making the comments.
Conservatives rallied around Chick-fil-A during the ensuing controversy, claiming that Cathy was just expressing free speech with his anti-gay marriage remarks.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) created a "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" event, which former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum quickly got behind. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) also publicly showed support for the chain over the weekend, when she tweeted a picture of her visiting the "great business."
West also spoke out in favor of Chick-fil-A in an interview earlier this month, saying that he loved the restaurant. He went on to accuse the left of exhibiting a double standard on what speech is protected by the First Amendment.
“Freedom of speech, I guess you have people that determine, you know, 'If it’s the type of speech that I like, it’s free,'” West said.