Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), one of the potential leading contenders to be presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate said in an interview that she is “not a socialist” and “a communist.”
“I’m not a socialist. I’m not a communist. I’ve belonged to one party my entire life and that’s the Democratic Party and I’m a Christian,” Bass told NBC News in an interview published Monday evening.
Bass, the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was rising to the top of the field as possible vice presidents pick for Biden, but her chances are slowly diminishing as her past remarks are coming back to haunt her. The past week, Bass has faced scrutiny from Republicans and the media over her multiple visits to Cuba and now-renounced praise of Cuban Dictator Fidel Castro.
In 1973, Bass traveled to Cuba with a U.S. left-wing group that has ties to the Castro regime called Venceremos Brigade to see the Cuban dictator speak. Following his death in 2016, Bass sparked a huge controversy by referring the Cuban Dictator as “commandante en jefe” (commander in chief) and called his death a “great loss to the people of Cuba.”
The focus of Bass’s past trips to Cuba with the Venceremos Brigade and praising the late Cuban dictator has caused quite a dismay amongst Floridians. Selecting Bass as his running mate could cost Biden winning the largest of the battleground states. In the Sunshine State, a significant segment of Cuban American and other Latino voters cast over 6 percent of all votes and mostly back Republican candidates.
In the interview with NBC, Bass said it’s wrong to characterize the whole Cuban American population being interested only about this issue.
“I don’t believe that it’s right to paint the Latino population with one brush, even the Cuban population,” Bass said. “The Latino population is often painted as only being interested in immigration, and the black population is painted as only interested in race. I don’t think any of those are true,” Bass said.
Bass characterized the scrutiny amongst Republicans as a pivot to distract from their handling the coronavirus.
“How do they explain the death rate in Florida? How do they explain the fact that COVID is completely out of control in the United States?” Bass said. “How do they explain the fact that the economy dropped to its lowest point in U.S. history? They have nothing to say, so resurrecting the ghost of Joe McCarthy and George Wallace is their best game right now.”
On Sunday, Bass fielded mounting questions about her past support of the Cuban communist government from both ‘FOX News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace and on ‘Meet the Press’ with moderator Chuck Todd.
“You were called ‘Communist Karen’ yesterday by the Trump campaign. And Senator Marco Rubio said you would be — essentially implied that there was nobody who has ever been considered for the vice presidency that was seen as so much of a Castro sympathizer. How do you react?” Todd asked.
Bass responded by saying she didn’t consider herself to be a sympathizer of Castro.
“Well, one, don’t consider myself a Castro sympathizer,” Bass responded. “Number two, my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration,” Bass said. “As a matter of fact, I was honored to go to Cuba with President Obama. I went to Cuba with Secretary Kerry when we raised the flag. So there really isn’t anything different. And then frankly, I believe the Republicans have decided to brand the entire Democratic party as Socialists and Communists. So I’m not surprised by Rubio’s characterization of me or of a role I would play if I were on the ticket.”
Regarding her trips with the Venceremos Brigade to Cuba, Bass said that she might have been a bit naive “as any 19-year-old would be,” but her reasoning to go was to “build relations with the Americans” in Cuba and was interested in “bridging the divide between our two countries.”
On Fox News Sunday, Bass renounced her praised for Castro, saying she learned her lesson and “wouldn’t do that again.
“I absolutely would have not put that statement out and I will tell you that after talking to my colleagues who represent the state of Florida, raised those concerns with me, lesson learned, would not do that again for sure,” Bass responded in addressing the controversy.
Biden was expected to announce his running mate this week, but sources are now saying that the “announcement isn’t likely this week.”