Bass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks

Bass honored US Communist Party leader in unsurfaced remarks
© Bonnie Cash

Rep. Karen BassKaren Ruth BassOvernight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds Democrats push to limit transfer of military-grade gear to police Outrage erupts over Breonna Taylor grand jury ruling MORE (D) inserted remarks into the congressional record in 2017 honoring a member of the Communist Party USA, the latest revelation surrounding the California lawmaker as she emerges as a top contender to be Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose MORE’s running mate.

In the remarks, Bass praised Oneil Marion Cannon as a “friend and mentor” and a powerful mover and shaker in progressive politics.

“As part of the [Independent Progressive Party], he used economic power to force employers to hire Black and Mexican American workers, using the slogan ‘don't bank or buy where you can't work.’ He worked for decades to elect representatives of color to office, including Tom Bradley, Ed Roybal, and even campaigning at age 90 for Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose Is Congress reasserting itself? Trump-Biden debate: High risk vs. low expectations MORE,” she said.

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“I would like to salute Oneil Cannon for his longstanding commitment to serving and uplifting others, and for a century of fighting to make the world a better place.” 

Bass did not mention Cannon’s membership in the Communist Party USA. An obituary described him as an education director for the party in California.

The remarks, which were first highlighted by Politico, come as Bass is floated as a top contender to join Biden on the 2020 Democratic ticket.

Bass has been playing defense the past few days amid criticism from Republicans and Democrats over her past remarks on Fidel Castro and trips to Cuba.

The revelations have raised concerns among Democrats that she could turn off more conservative Hispanic voters in the crucial swing state of Florida and that she has not received the crucial vetting of a national or statewide campaign.

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The Trump campaign has seized on her reference to Castro as “comandante en jefe” after the dictator’s 2016 death, a comment that translates to “commander in chief” but was interpreted to be a sign of respect.

Republicans have also highlighted trips she took to Cuba throughout the 1970s as part of the Venceremos Brigade, a group that organized visits to the island for leftist Americans.

Bass has since distanced herself from the remarks on Castro, saying Sunday that she was trying to express condolences to “the people in Cuba” and that she “wouldn’t do that again.”

Her office also downplayed her connection to Cannon, saying the two never shared an ideology.

“Karen Bass has always been a Democrat and only a Democrat. The Congresswoman is friends with Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthySunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election House to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Ginsburg becomes the first woman to lie in state in the Capitol MORE and is not a Republican. She knew Oneil Cannon but never shared the political ideology he may have had at one time in his life,” Bass spokesman Zach Seidl told Politico.

“While she and Cannon differed politically, she recognizes work he did in the community,” he added. “He taught the printing trade to generations of young people in South Los Angeles and he co-founded a wellness center, which is South LA’s first organic produce market and a local food hub increasing access to healthy local food for the entire South Los Angeles community.”

Bass’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

The recent scrutiny has raised eyebrows among some Democrats, who are concerned that Bass could hand the GOP a chance to hit Biden as beholden to the far-left flank of his party and hurt him particularly in Florida, where Latino voters – made up largely of immigrants who fled from socialist dictatorships like Cuba – are more conservative than the Hispanic population nationwide.

“If she has any hopes of having her past not be the source of genuine damage, it starts with a full-fledged and full throated mea culpa acknowledging that it was a mistake or naïveté to have traveled so often to Cuba and said comments that on the surface appear to be sympathetic and in solidarity with the communist and totalitarian regime that oppressed, jailed and killed the family of many people today who are voters throughout the United States,” Fernand Amandi, a Florida-based Democratic consultant and pollster, told The Hill last weekend.