By Justin Sink - 07/03/12 10:23 PM EDT
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said Tuesday that he wasn't "the police officer of the Republican party" after being pressed over controversial comments by Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).
During a campaign event in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., the freshman congressman said that President Barack Obama wanted Americans "to be his slave."
“He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American," West said, continuing, "He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He’d rather you be his slave."
"First of all, I’m not the police officer of the Republican party," Priebus said. "Allen can say what Allen wants to say. But I think what he’s really trying to say is that if we become a dependent society, if everyone is reliant on the government – I mean, listen, Barack Obama’s the one that put out this 'Life of Julia' website. I think we all know what this is. It’s a life of a girl from preschool to I think death or near death showing how every step of her life."
At this point, Blitzer interjected to ask if the woman depicted on the president's website was a slave. Priebus first responded that she was "dependent on government."
"So she's a slave?" Blitzer asked.
"Listen, it’s semantics. I’m not going to defend —" Priebus replied, when Blitzer cut him off.
"I know you very well. You’re not going to defend that kind of language," Blitzer said. "And I deplore that kind of language when a Democrat or Republican says it. We shouldn’t be talking like this. It’s bad enough the lack of civility in our politics."
Priebus responded, seeming to acknowledge a distance from West's comments — but maintaining his attack on the president.
"Two things, Allen West is one of the most dynamic new Republican stars in our party," Priebus said. "That’s number one. He’s got a bright future. But I’m more embarrassed about is the president that can’t keep a promise, that has an American economy that’s in the ditch that somehow is trying to perpetrate some myth to the American people that he’s not to blame for or has no role in where we are in the American economy."
Priebus went on to say that this was his first chance to hear West's remarks.
"Allen West is an important member of Congress from South Florida. I’m not going to throw Allen West in a ditch. I don’t -- that's the first I’ve heard the comment here, Wolf, I mean, on your show," Priebus said.