On Thursday's NBC Today, congressional correspondent Kelly O'Donnell reported on a war of words between Republican Congressman Allen West and Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz: "...West, a freshman Republican who hit 'send' on a nasty e-mail to Wasserman-Schultz....Democratic congresswomen accuse West of sexual harassment."
While O'Donnell quoted from West's email – in which he referred to Wasserman-Schultz as "vile, unprofessional, and despicable" and "not a lady" – O'Donnell failed to bring up past offensive comments Wasserman-Shultz directed toward West. In the fall of 2010, Wasserman-Schultz personally led a protest outside West's campaign office, calling him an "extremist" who "wears his extreme disrespect as a badge of honor" and "thinks it's okay to objectify and denigrate women."
O'Donnell did highlight a sound bite from Democratic California Congresswoman Jackie Sperier proclaiming: "In any other employment environment, he [West] would be subject to a sexual harassment claim for creating a hostile work environment." O'Donnell later noted: "For her part, Wasserman-Schultz says the e-mail does not bother her and blamed Republican policy." A sound bite was featured of Wasserman-Schutlz's snarky response to West: "It's not really surprising that he would crack under the pressure of having to defend that [Republican debt plan]."
O'Donnell did cite statements from West: "...his office says, 'Congressman West does not hate women, as a husband and father of two daughters.' West declined our request, but in an interview with Fox said, 'Liberals want to play victim. She is not a victim. She's been attacking Allen West for quite some time.'" If only O'Donnell had mentioned some of those past attacks.
Here is a full transcript of the July 21 segment:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: The battle over the debt limit has tempers flaring, and a tiff between two members of Congress from Florida has turned very personal. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell is on Capitol Hill for us this morning. Kelly, good morning.
KELLY O'DONNELL: Morning, Savannah. Well this started with kind of a slow burn, a disagreement over the debt, and then it caught fire quickly. Many Democrats are asking a Republican congressman to apologize. His office says no apology needed and that it was the Democrat who went too far.
[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "You Are Not a Lady"; Congresswomen: GOP E-mail is "Sexual Harassment"]
A Florida feud. Two members of the House in a debt limit duel that got personal. Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz, who is also the chair of the Democratic National Committee, and a Tea Party star, Congressman Allen West, a freshman Republican who hit 'send' on a nasty e-mail to Wasserman-Schultz.
'You are the most vile, unprofessional, and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives.' And there's more. But first, here's what set him off. Tuesday, West spoke in favor of the Republicans' debt-cutting bill. Then Wasserman-Schultz got up and accused him of betraying senators.
DEBBIE WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: The gentleman from Florida who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive of this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries, unbelievable from a member from South Florida.
O'DONNELL: West's blistering e-mail told Wasserman-Schultz to 'shut the heck up' and hit a nerve with this: 'You have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady, therefore shall not be afforded due respect from me!' Democratic congresswomen accuse West of sexual harassment.
GWEN MOORE [REP. D-WI]: Just once again, we have been told that in order to be a lady, that we need to just stay in our places.
JACKIE SPEIER [REP. D-CA]: In any other employment environment, he would be subject to a sexual harassment claim for creating a hostile work environment.
O'DONNELL: In a statement to NBC News, his office says, 'Congressman West does not hate women, as a husband and father of two daughters.' West declined our request, but in an interview with Fox said, 'Liberals want to play victim. She is not a victim. She's been attacking Allen West for quite some time.' In that interview, the Congressman also complained of a double standard, saying in the past, he has been attacked with racially charged words like, quote, 'Uncle Tom, sellout, and oreo.' West, who is one of only two African-American House Republicans, began the speech that started this, Tuesday, pointing out that a Democrat confused him...
UNIDENTIFIED MEMBER OF CONGRESS: I see the gentleman from South Carolina.
O'DONNELL: ...with South Carolina Republican Tim Scott.
ALLEN WEST: And I do need to correct my colleague from Vermont, I'm not from South Carolina, I'm from Florida, but that's okay. I'm the guy with hair.
O'DONNELL: For her part, Wasserman-Schultz says the e-mail does not bother her and blamed Republican policy.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: It's not really surprising that he would crack under the pressure of having to defend that.
O'DONNELL: And she makes one more point, Florida does not require congressmen reside in their districts. Allen West does not live in his. He lives nearby in her district.
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: As a constituent of mine, I can-
ANDREA MITCHELL: He lives in your district?
WASSERMAN-SCHULTZ: He actually lives in my district.
O'DONNELL: And in that statement from Congressman West's office to NBC, they point out that he complained to leaders in both parties about Wasserman-Schultz. Leaders aren't talking about this. But, Savannah, I can tell you that both Democrats and the Congressman from Florida, Congressman West, are using this incident to try to raise campaign cash. Savannah.
GUTHRIE: Alright, Kelly O'Donnell on the Hill for us this morning. Kelly, thank you.