Rep. Allen West (Fla.), the lone Republican in the Congressional Black Caucus, said Tuesday morning that he is considering leaving the group in light of comments made by Rep. Andrè Carson (D-Ind.), the caucus whip, who said at a town hall that many Tea Party-affiliated members of Congress see African Americans as “second-class citizens” and would be happy to see blacks “hanging from a tree.”
“When you start using words such as lynching … that’s a reprehensible word and I think we should move away from that language,” West said on “Fox & Friends.”
After making his comments, West sent a letter to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), chairman of the CBC, demanding that he denounce comments by Carson and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). At a town-hall meeting earlier this month, Waters said the Tea Party “can go straight to hell.”
“I believe it is incumbent on you to both condemn these types of hate-filled comments, and to disassociate the Congressional Black Caucus from these types of remarks,” West wrote. “Otherwise, I will have to seriously reconsider my membership within the organization.”
West went on to argue that Carson’s charges against the Tea Party were “racist.”
“Congressman Carson’s desire to generally criticize a large grassroots group as racist is baseless and desperate,” West wrote. “When individuals believe they are defeated in a political disagreement, they normally resort to race-baiting, which in my opinion is in itself racist.”
West is the first Republican to join the CBC since Rep. Gary Franks (Conn.) left Congress in 1997.
The Democratic members of the CBC have been active critics of the Tea Party during the summer recess.
West said other CBC members were blaming the Tea Party for bad economic conditions.
“I think what you see is a desire to not recognize some of the serious problems in the black community,” West said. “To try to have a scapegoat that is the Tea Party … that’s just a distraction. The Tea Party stands for some basic, constitutional principles.”
This is not the first time West and Waters have sparred over language this summer. Earlier this month, West referred to Waters and other Democratic leaders as “overseers” on a “21st century plantation.” He went on to liken himself to a “modern-day Harriet Tubman” who would lead black voters to the Republican Party.
Waters criticized West’s comments, calling them “a little bit ridiculous” and “hard to respond to” in an interview on MSNBC.
West’s membership in the CBC has been a point of some controversy. In October, the caucus’s then-chairwoman, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), questioned whether West should be allowed to join the CBC.
“Our agenda is about lifting people out of poverty, providing middle-class tax cuts, supporting climate-change legislation,” she told The Economist. “Do [incoming black Republicans] embrace this agenda?”
Ultimately, it was decided that West would be allowed to join the CBC. Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), the only other black Republican in Congress, declined to join the group.
This post was updated at 3:38 p.m.