MSNBC Host Asks Black GOP Candidate About 'Racist' Tea Parties

In Friday's 3PM ET hour of live coverage on MSNBC, anchor Peter Alexander asked black Republican congressional candidate Allen West of Florida about "aligning" with the tea party movement: "the Tea Party has raised concerns that it may have, I guess, racism built within it. We have seen some racist signs at past events...are African-American candidates aligning themselves with the tea party?" [Audio available here]

West responded: "The principles and values that I espouse, limited government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, and accountability, liberty, and honoring the traditions of our constitutional republic, are connecting me with those grass roots Americans that attend tea party rallies. And I've spoken at four to five of those rallies and I've not seen any racist type of signs."

On Wednesday, Alexander talked with correspondent Luke Russert about the fact that 32 African-Americans are running for Congress as Republicans. Russert noted with surprise how "these candidates are actually soliciting support from the tea party, a group that a lot of folks have claimed to be racist against African-Americans."

Earlier, April 15, with video: “White NBC Reporter Confronts Black Man at Tea Party Rally: 'Have You Ever Felt Uncomfortable?'”

In the Friday interview, Alexander referenced a recent quote by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele that African-Americans "don't have a reason to" vote Republican and asked West: "What's your response to that?" West replied: "Chairman Steele is totally wrong....go back and look at the legacy of the Republican Party, being the establishment of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments....I think that Chairman Steele should do a little bit more research before he goes out spouting his mouth like that."

Earlier, Alexander wondered: "Do you think the Democrats presently, with an African-American as President, take for granted the African-American vote in this country?" West declared: "Well, absolutely they do. I think that I believe they've come to depend upon a 21st century plantation." He went on to observe that "a lot of the black community...really has some conservative principles and ideas at its root core."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

3:24 PM EDT:

PETER ALEXANDER: President Obama's rise to the presidency has inspired many across this country, but no one may be more surprised than the President, himself, to find out that 32 African-Americans are running for Congress this year as Republicans. Republicans in the House have not had an African-American member since the man on your screen, J.C. Watts of Oklahoma. That was in 2003, after he finished serving eight years. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Allen West is running for Congress as a Republican in Florida and he is joining me live from the sunshine state. Lieutenant Colonel, nice to visit with you. Thank you.

ALLEN WEST: A pleasure. Good afternoon to you.

ALEXANDER: I was reading some of the articles that have quoted you recently. You said that in 2008 you raised a half million dollars and 'the state party didn't support me and the national party didn't support me.' This time around, you've raised $2 million, $838,000 alone in the first quarter, so what has changed?

WEST: Well, I think the fact in November of '07 I had just gotten back from Afghanistan and I was new to the political scene and we had an eight-month campaign in 2008. So it was a matter of proving yourself and getting your message out and people getting to know you. And we finished up with 45.3% in the 2008 election and that set the conditions for us to have a lot of success this cycle.

ALEXANDER: Well so, Lieutenant, then let me ask you – Lieutenant Colonel, more specifically if you can, about the Democrat versus Republican idea here, the fact that most African-Americans for years have voted for Democrats. Do you think the Democrats presently, with an African-American as President, take for granted the African-American vote in this country?

WEST: Well, absolutely they do. I think that I believe they've come to depend upon a 21st century plantation. But if you go back and you look at one of the key indicators in the 2008 presidential election cycle, you had a same sex marriage amendment that was out in California and also Florida that failed in both states, especially here in my home state of Florida, because you did drive out a lot of the black community which really has some conservative principles and ideas at its root core.

ALEXANDER: Lieutenant Colonel, let me read to you what your RNC Chairman Michael Steele said just last month he was asked why African-Americans should vote Republican. This was his quote. He said the following: 'You really don't have a reason to, to be honest, we haven't done a very good job of really giving you one.' What's your response to that?

WEST: Well, I think that Chairman Steele is totally wrong. I think that if the Chairman Steele would go out and talk about the principles and values and go back and look at the legacy of the Republican Party, being the establishment of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, some of the early civil rights legislation that was done in the Reconstruction era. The first congressmen and senators were Republicans, so there is a great history that was connecting the Republican Party to the black community and I think that Chairman Steele should do a little bit more research before he goes out spouting his mouth like that.

ALEXANDER: Lieutenant Colonel, our time is limited, but my last question to you, the Tea Party has raised concerns that it may have, I guess, racism built within it. We have seen some racist signs at past events, people have said that that is not a part of the tea party movement, but are African-American candidates aligning themselves with the tea party?

WEST: Well, I don't think it's so much aligning yourself with the tea party. The principles and values that I espouse, limited government, lower taxes, individual responsibility, and accountability, liberty, and honoring the traditions of our constitutional republic, are connecting me with those grass roots Americans that attend tea party rallies. And I've spoken at four to five of those rallies and I've not seen any racist type of signs.

ALEXANDER: Understood. Lieutenant – retired Lieutenant Colonel Allen West joining us live from Florida, thank you, sir. We appreciate your time.

WEST: Thank you for having me.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC