By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Allen West’s “commie” smear of Democratic members of Congress continues to reverberate.
TCPalm.com reports that a Treasure Coast branch of the NAACP dis-invited West to be guest speaker at its annual fundraiser.
“There’s a certain statement he made about communists,” said Jerry Gore, president of the Martin County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Gore was referring to West’s appearance at an April 10 campaign event in Jensen Beach where he said, “I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democrat Party who are members of the Communist Party.” After a pause, he added, “It’s called the Congressional Progressive Caucus.”
The NAACP is a nonpartisan group. Hosting the Republican congressman from Plantation after such an incendiary a statement would have been too divisive, Gore told columnist Eve Samples. “We do not represent that type of atmosphere,” he said.
The civil rights group rescheduled the April 22 event for September and said it would seek another keynote speaker.
It apparently takes some doing to become too politically radioactive for the Martin County NAACP. West didn’t set off any triggers when he declared in January that Democratic leaders should “take their message of economic dependency” and “get the hell out of the United States of America.”
Or when he celebrated Black History Month by saying that Democrats’ philosophy of “handouts” — what others might call the social safety net — is “the most insidious form of slavery remaining in the world today.”
Or when he sent an email to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida member of the Democratic House leadership, to tell her: “You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives.”
West’s bombastic style has made him a national figure — at once a tea party hero, a liberals’ villain, and cable TV gold. Last week, Soledad O’Brien of CNN had a go at West, reading him a list of names of House members and challenging him to say if they were communists, apparently finding the whole idea absurdly funny. West declined to name anyone.
That the commie claim has risen above the usual political fray could be seen last week when a Chicago reporter satirized it as a milestone in the decline and fall of rational discourse. Rex W. Huppke of the Chicago Tribune wrote a marvelous spoof obituary bidding farewell to Facts (360 B.C- A.D. 2012). “After a long battle for relevancy with the 24-hour news cycle, blogs and the Internet,” the concept of facts — that is, agreed-upon reality — has died. “The official cause of death was from injuries suffered last week when Florida Republican Rep. Allen West steadfastly declared that as many as 81 of his fellow members of the U.S. House of Representatives are communists.”
For the record, PolitiFact, the Tampa Bay Times website that aims to sift truth from fiction in U.S. politics, determined that West’s claim was a “Pants on Fire” lie. The only wonder is why it took PolitiFact 27 paragraphs to demolish a statement so patently false.
West, for his part, is not backing down. On the contrary, he’s using his bellicosity as a fundraising tactic. As Sample noted:
On April 13, three days after making his Communist claims, West sent his supporters an email titled “Speaking the Truth.”
“I need you to stand with me against attacks from the liberals and the distortions of the corrupt liberal media,” he wrote. “Everyone who stands with me in the next 48 hours by making a contribution of $10 or more will receive an ‘Allen West for Congress’ bumper sticker.”
We can bet that none of those bumper stickers will be worn by fellow travelers.