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Allen West's controversial new chief of staff quits amid media 'lynching'

Conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman and U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West at a tea party rally in September 2009.

Special to the Times

Conservative radio talk show host Joyce Kaufman and U.S. Rep.-elect Allen West at a tea party rally in September 2009.

WASHINGTON — Allen West promised to shake up Washington, but it's hard to imagine anyone causing an uproar so quickly.

West, a Republican who just defeated two-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Klein of South Florida, this week hired a fire-breathing conservative radio host as his chief of staff. In accepting the job, Joyce Kaufman likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "garbage."

On Thursday, a day after 300 Broward County schools were locked down when a threat was linked to her show, Kaufman quit West's office.

"I will not be used in an electronic lynching by proxy,'' she said on 850 WFTL, haranguing the "liberal media" for creating a uproar over her hiring. "They're trying to bring down congressman-elect Allen West. … They are vile, they could care less that an election was won fair and square."

Known for a hard line on illegal immigration and closely aligned with the tea party, Kaufman, 56, promotes herself as the "most heavily armed" radio host in South Florida.

This week a video began circulating on the Internet — and shown on MSNBC — in which Kaufman seems to advocate tough action against the government.

"I am convinced the most important thing the Founding Fathers did to ensure me my First Amendment rights was they gave me a Second Amendment," she said at a rally in July. "And if ballots don't work, bullets will."

The clip disappeared from YouTube on Thursday. Kaufman, who had planned to continue her show while working for West in Washington, said her words have been twisted by the news media. She defended herself similarly after suggesting illegal immigrants should be hanged.

"How can I be a racist if I campaigned for a black candidate?" she asked on her show, provocatively using the word "lynching." She said that she had received a threat and that authorities were investigating.

On Wednesday, authorities locked down all schools in Broward after an e-mail was sent to Kaufman at WFTL, claiming "something big was going to happen," possibly at a post office or a school. It's not clear whether anything Kaufman said prompted the threat, which never was realized.

"Sometimes I have a big mouth," Kaufman said on her Thursday show. "Sometimes I say things that I wish I had either said differently or not said at all. I think that's part of my charm. It also gets people in a lot of trouble."

West also favored antigovernment rhetoric on the campaign trail and enjoys passionate tea party support. His victory over Klein was part of a Republican wave in Florida, where four incumbent Democrats lost their seats in Congress.

He called Kaufman on the air Thursday and said he'd continue to rely on her for advice. "They didn't get a win," he said of critics, "and I'll see you on the high ground."

He promised to bring the "left-wing vile, vicious, despicable machine" to its knees.

West, 49, is a former Army lieutenant colonel who resigned the military amid controversy after firing his gun near a detainee's head in Iraq in 2003, an attempt to extract information about a possible ambush. He acknowledged wrongdoing but said he would do it again to protect his men.

Thousands of people across the United States rallied behind him at the time, setting off a debate about war conduct that continues today. West said the experience was a spark for his decision to run for office.

West's boisterous introduction to Washington recalls another tough-talking Florida lawmaker: Rep. Alan Grayson, a liberal Democrat from Orlando who repeatedly annoyed and provoked Republicans over the past two years and became a favorite of cable news shows.

But Grayson will not be returning for a second term. He was defeated Nov. 2.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Alex Leary can be reached at leary@sptimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @learyspt.

Allen West's controversial new chief of staff quits amid media 'lynching' 11/11/10 [Last modified: Friday, November 12, 2010 10:47am]
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