A freshman Republican congressman from Florida is standing by his comments that as many as 81 House Democrats are members of the Communist Party.
The Associated Press reports that U.S. Rep. Allen West was asked during a town hall meeting Tuesday in Florida how many members of Congress are “card-carrying Marxists.”
“That's a fair question," West said. "I believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.”
West's wild claims echo U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy’s unsubstantiated charges that communists had infiltrated the top ranks of the U.S. government during the 1950s. And like McCarthy, West did not provide any names.
U.S. Rep. Allen West
McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin, embarked on a witch hunt in the 1950s and held numerous Senate hearings based on his assertions that communists and Soviet spies had infiltrated the federal government. He claimed at one time that as many as 205 communists were working in the U.S. State Department.
U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy
McCarthy never produced any documentation to back up his claims and was later censured by the Senate. He died in disgrace in 1957. The term McCarthyism was coined in reference to his tactics and remains in general use today to describe demagogic, reckless and unsubstantiated accusations and public attacks on the character or patriotism of political opponents.
An aide to West said Wednesday that the congressman stood by his comments and that he was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies,” West spokeswoman Angela Melvin said.
A top official of the Communist Party USA on Wednesday characterized West's statements as "absurd."
"I just think it’s an absurd way to cast a shadow over his colleagues. It’s kind of a sad ploy,” Libero Della Piana, a vice-chairman of the Communist Party, told Politico.com.
Let's let the band R.E.M. have the last word on this one: