TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ Congressman Allen West told a group of black Republicans gathered for the party's national convention Wednesday that Democrats are racist and the media doesn't call them on it.
West said Democrats have gotten away with attacking black conservatives. He then turned to the two reporters covering the event and said he had a challenge for them.
“''Tell the story. You guys allow the other side to attack black conservatives, and you don't call them out,'' West said. “That's the most racist party I've ever seen in my life and you don't call them out.''
West has enraged Democrats several times, calling them communists and comparing their communications strategy to Nazi propaganda, among other comments.
West, a former Army officer, is serving his first term representing a Broward and Palm Beach county district, but is running for re-election in a Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie county district. He has become a national star among tea party Republicans. While he acknowledged the party has a long way to go in building support among blacks, he said the party represents the same economic and social values as the black community.
“There's no other group more conservative on a Sunday than the black community. But someone's got to tell me, Lucy, what happens Monday through Saturday? And that's what's got to change,'' he said. “For too long this community has invested its political capital in one political party and what are the dividends that you have gotten back from that?''
He pointed out that the unemployment among blacks is significantly higher than the rest of the country, particularly for teenagers, and that the median income for black families has dropped 11 percent since President Barack Obama took office.
“This wouldn't be the first time Allen West has either deliberately misled the American people or has found himself grossly ill-informed. But the truth is, President Obama has laid the groundwork for a fairer economy that rewards work, not just wealth,'' said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Ellen Canale, who added that Obama's payroll tax cut, expansion of college grants for students in need and health care overhaul have helped black families.
Republican National Committee co-chair Sharon Day told the just more than 50 guests at the luncheon that black families have been worse off under Obama.
“We know this president has been a total disaster for the black community,'' she said as she encouraged the group to help build support among blacks.
She also said the party needs to reach out and make sure blacks are more involved.
“Not for a photo op. Not to have individuals stand on a stage to look behind a candidate, but to be in front of the stage making a difference and being part of the solution,'' she said.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, the first black to hold the position, talked about how when she entered her first political campaign as a Republican people were puzzled.
“I was a freak of nature,'' she said, before joking, “At least I'm a good-looking freak of nature.''
More seriously, she stressed that the message needs to be that Republicans need to make their appeal to black voters through issues.
“It's all about the jobs and the economy and if we do not take care of that, the sustainability of families and the prosperity of these families are going to go away,'' Carroll said. “And when we see all the statistics of the numbers moving in the wrong direction for African-American families across this country, we have to stop and take pause and say what you've been doing for all these years are the wrong things.''