Former Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., is furious about a fundraising appeal circulated Monday by Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., which uses a burning cross as the first letter in "tea party."
West, a black Republican raised in Georgia, told U.S. News in an email, "this is beyond disgusting, especially considering what my parents endured."
West – elected as a self-identified tea partier in 2010 – reminded his progressive peer in a lengthier public statement that white Southern Democrats were the Ku Klux Klan's core membership after the Civil War.
He also accused Grayson of rehashing KKK tactics to intimidate black voters.
"I grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and remember the Klan burning crosses atop Stone Mountain," West said. "The constitutional conservative grassroots movement known as 'The TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party' focuses on fiscal spending and government growth issues as well as individual liberty and free market principles. Mr. Grayson should probably crack open a history book, in between his histrionics, and learn that it was the Democrat Party that created the Ku Klux Klan to intimidate black voters. Voters such as those who elected the first black Republican member of the House of Representatives from Florida, Josiah T. Walls. Same party, same tactics, some things just never change."
Other tea partiers also came out swinging against Grayson.
"Race is not an issue and actually [this ad] diminishes real racism in the country when you criticize members of the tea party as racist any time they disagree with the president or the progressive movement," says Jennifer Burke, the outreach coordinator at the TeaParty.net.
Burke questioned how anyone could accuse the tea party of racism when black conservatives like West and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., are standard-bearers of the movement.
"I was appalled that a sitting member of Congress would refer to Americans that simply want a constitutionally-limited government and...call us no better than the KKK," Burke says.
— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) October 22, 2013
"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 shoe fits, wear it," Grayson said in a statement Tuesday.
Grayson pointed to protesters in his Orlando, Fla., district allegedly saying during a visit by President Barack Obama, "Kenyan Go Home."
"Tea party members also have persisted in falsely characterizing the president as Kenyan and Moslem, despite all evidence, in order to disparage him," Grayson said.
Grayson additionally pointed to tea party members allegedly referring to Latinos as "wetbacks" and former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., who is openly gay, as a "faggot."
West was narrowly defeated in his 2012 bid for a second term. Grayson, first elected in 2008, was defeated in 2010 by Republican Dan Webster – who Grayson memorably mocked in a television ad as "Taliban Dan" - before prevailing again in 2012.
Watch: Grayson's 2010 "Taliban Dan" attack ad: