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Rep. West: Ellison "antithesis" of country's founding principles (updated)

Posted by: under 5th District Updated: January 24, 2011 - 6:10 PM

Update: Added Rep. Keith Ellison's statement.

Sounds like there’s friction inside the newly bipartisan Congressional Black Caucus.

Florida Rep. Allen West, a freshman Tea Party-backed Republican, said that Rep. Keith Ellison is “someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established.”

West made the remark when asked a question referring to Ellison’s religion. Ellison, also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the first Muslim elected to Congress.

West made the comment in an interview with Richard Peritz, host of “The Shalom Show.” Peritz asked West how he planned to associate with those in Congress he totally disagreed with, “including Keith Ellison, who supports Islam.”

West responded:

“Well I think it’s most important that I stand upon the principles that people elected me to go to Washington, D.C., and represent them on Capitol Hill. So that when you run into someone that is counter, or someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established, you’ve got to be able to defeat them intellectually in debate and discourse, and you to just have to be able to challenge each and every one of their assertions very wisely and very forthright.”

In a statement, Ellison said: "I was surprised to hear of Congressman West’s comments because he has never expressed these sentiments to me directly."

"Contrary to the views expressed by Congressman West, I work to represent the highest ideals of our great nation — ideals like freedom of worship and respect for all faiths, equal protection under the law as well as a civil and open public discourse," Ellison said. "Americans across the country want their public servants to reject the toxic and corrosive chatter that yields more heat than light."

Video of the exchange was posted by liberal blog Think Progress.

West was one of two black Republicans to win a congressional seat in November, but he was the only one to join the caucus. He's the first Republican to be a member of the CBC in 14 years.

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