PolitiFact: In defense of angry e-mail, West says Dems put Social Security number in e-mail

The statement

"Florida Democrats "put my Social Security number and my wife's Employment Identification Number in a mail piece." U.S. Rep. Allen West

The ruling

Fox News nabbed an interview with Florida Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West a day after he fired off the angry and now infamous e-mail calling his South Florida colleague U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable" member of the House.

West, a retired Army colonel and favorite of the tea party movement, sent the e-mail Tueday after Wasserman Schultz criticized him in a floor speech for supporting the GOP's "cut, cap, and balance" plan to sharply reduce spending and require a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. That plan, Wasserman Schultz said, "would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a member from South Florida."

Political blogs and talk shows got a lot of mileage out of West's subsequent outburst, in which he asserted Wasserman Schultz was "not a Lady." On Wednesday, West told a Fox reporter that Wasserman Schultz and Democrats have been attacking him "for quite some time."

"She's not a victim," he said.

"This is something once again the Democrat Party (sic), when they put my Social Security number and my wife's employment identification number in a mail piece, this has just been an ongoing thing. I've been called Uncle Tom, a sellout, Oreo."

West has been known to make some provocative statements, including saying he had a security clearance higher than the president (he doesn't), so we wondered whether claims about Democrats distributing his personal information in mailers was true.

The blow-up started when the government hit West with a $11,081 tax lien in 2005. He paid it off a few months later, but the Florida Democratic Party feasted at the chance to highlight his money problems in his 2010 race against sitting Rep. Ron Klein. The party crafted a mailer to Fort Lauderdale-area voters depicting a photo of an IRS document showing the tax lien. The Democrats redacted West's address and his wife's name but left visible his Social Security number and her Employer Identification Number (an Internal Revenue Service code used to identify West's wife's employer).

"I'm not yet sure the potential damage that might come to my wife and me," West said in a statement.

Florida Democratic spokesman Eric Jotkoff acknowledged the "oversight" and said the party would pay for two years of identity theft monitoring. The mailer episode was well-publicized, and the party apologized. We rate West's claim True.

Katie Sanders, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau. This ruling has been edited for print. For the full version, go to PolitiFact.com/Florida.

PolitiFact: In defense of angry e-mail, West says Dems put Social Security number in e-mail 07/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 22, 2011 9:35pm]

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