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Congressman says 80 fellow lawmakers are communists

Updated 3:31 p.m. - Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-FL) claimed at a town hall meeting that about 80 members of Congress are communists, a remark which has drawn quick fire from opponents.

"I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of the democratic party that are members of the communist party," West told supporters at a town hall meeting in Jensen Beach, FL. He was responding to a question by a participant who asked, "what percentage of the American legislature do you think are card carrying Marxists?"

Doug Murray / Reuters

Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., claimed at a town hall meeting that about 80 members of Congress are communists, a remark which has drawn quick fire from opponents.

Asked to respond to the comments, West spokeswoman Angela Marvin told NBC News that the Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"The Congressman was referring to the 76 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus," Marvin said in a written statement. "The Communist Party has publicly referred to the Progressive Caucus as its allies."

"The Progressive Caucus speaks for itself," Marvin continued, "These individuals certainly aren't proponents of free markets or individual economic freedom."

West's office also referred to a post on the website for the Communist Party USA where it says they made a mistake by turning "away from our allies in Congress, the Progressive Caucus, and John Conyers" during their fight for a single-payer system being included in Obama's health care law.

Libro DellaPiana, who is one of the vice chairs of the Communist Party USA, called West's statements "ridiculous" and "a cheap shot."

"There are no members of Congress in the Communist party," DellaPiana said, "We support public parks and I assume Congressmen West does too, that doesn't mean he's a Communist."

Allen West has been thrust into the spotlight after a number of notable Republicans listed him as a possible running-mate for Mitt Romney in the general election.  Of those who have called for West to be considered is Sarah Palin, Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), and Herman Cain.

This isn't the first time West has criticized a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In January of last year, West criticized Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep Keith Ellison (D-MN) as "someone that really does represent the antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established" because he is a practicing Muslim.