Former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) lashed out at Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) on Tuesday, calling for Democratic leadership to "reprimand and censor" the congressman's "demeaning" campaign comparing the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan.
In an interview with Fox News' "The Kelly File," West questioned several high-profile Democrats -- headed by President Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) -- for not speaking out.
“You know, we continue to hear the use of this extremist language, jihadist language, arsonist, extortionist and now this equating constitutional conservatives, people who just believe in a constitutional way of government to operate, with people who were responsible for lynchings, and horrible things in the South and all across this country,” West said.
West has a history of making inflammatory comments that make Grayson's appear mild and has repeatedly referring to Democrats as both communists and Nazis.
Grayson initially made the tea party-KKK claim in an interview last Thursday on MSNBC's "Politics Nation with Al Sharpton," arguing that at this point, the conservative movement is "no more popular than the Klan." The congressman escalated that claim with an email using a burning cross to signify the tea party.
"[T]here is overwhelming evidence that the tea party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation," Grayson said in a statement provided to HuffPost Tuesday. "If the hood fits, wear it."
See his full statement below:
Regarding the image that the campaign circulated, the Tea Party has engaged in relentless racist attacks against our African-American President. For example, when the President visited my home of Orlando, Tea Party protesters shouted “Kenyan Go Home.” Other examples include Tea Party chants of “Bye Bye, Blackbird,” and Tea Party posters saying “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African,” as well as this repulsive one, depicting the President of the United States as an African witch doctor with bananas in his hair:
Tea Party members also have persisted in falsely characterizing the President as Kenyan and Moslem, despite all evidence, in order to disparage him. Members of the Tea Party have circulated countless altered pictures depicting President Obama and the First Lady as monkeys. Tea Party members also called my fellow Member of Congress, civil rights hero John Lewis, a “n***ger,” and Rep. Barney Frank a “faggot.” More generally, the leader of the Texas Tea Party displayed a poster saying “Congress=Slave Owner, Taxpayer=Niggar [sic].” Tea Party Members of Congress have referred to Hispanics as “wetbacks,” and having “cantaloupe-sized calves” from picking fruit. Tea Party candidates, including my opponent in the last election, have endorsed forcing Hispanics to speak English. One could go on and on, because there is overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation. If the hood fits, wear it.
Grayson's comparison is not novel. Professors Matt Barretto and Christopher Parker, in their book "Tea Party, Change They Can't Believe In," published by Princeton University Press, make a similar case. "The authors argue that this isn't the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege," the book's blurb reads. "In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that 'American' values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past, including the Know-Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences.