Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, Republican of Florida, refused to allow California Rep. Barbara Lee, a Democrat, to sit. House subcommittee hearing According to Lee’s views on Cuba.
This led to criticism that Salazar was behaving like the Cuban regime and later turned into name-calling.
As is often done on Capitol Hill, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, asked Salazar to allow Lee and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla. — none of whom are committee members — to attend Thursday’s hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Western Hemisphere subcommittee. The hearing was supposed to focus on the Biden administration’s policy on private businesses in Cuba.
Lee wanted to make a statement and listen to discuss Cuban entrepreneurship, ways to support human rights in Cuba and revitalizing U.S. relations with Cuba, his office said. Lee supported the normalization of relations with Cuba.
Salazar responded that Wasserman Schultz was “welcome, not Barbara Lee.”
When Castro, the subcommittee’s ranking member, asked him for a justification, Salazar said, “Because Barbara Lee, a member of the Democratic Party, is friends with the oppressors, not the Cuban people. “Barbara was friends with Fidel Castro.”
This drew criticism from Congressman Castro, who said it was “unprecedented” that Salazar would not allow Lee to attend.
“You criticize the Cuban government because it suppresses free speech and suppresses dissent,” Castro said. “That’s exactly what you’re doing here right now. “You’re suppressing anyone from sitting here, just like the Cuban government has been doing for decades.”
Castro told NBC News on Friday that he was concerned that Salazar’s move could further undermine collegiality in Congress. He said that when he chaired the Foreign Relations subcommittee, he regularly allowed Republicans with whom he disagreed to participate.
Lee stood up on his own behalf, and while his comments were not picked up by committee room microphones, they were picked up by others.
“I am an African American woman with a point of view. In a democracy, these ideas are allowed, and you are doing the same thing with the Cuban government…” he said. video posted By the Young Turks.
In a statement after he was denied a subcommittee seat, Lee called his ouster “another example of the extreme GOP stifling free speech and diversity of opinion.” He warned that “if we don’t push back against this silencing, we risk being controlled by disinformation and would-be dictators like (former President Donald) Trump — the death of our democracy.”
His office later told NBC News that “this is not the first time [Lee] As a black member of Congress, he faced disparate treatment.
Wasserman Schultz refused to participate unless Lee also gave permission. Wasserman Schultz said he and Salazar share a position on the Cuban regime – Wasserman Schultz He criticized the Cuban government a lot – “but we all have equal access under the same rules,” he said.
Salazar’s office did not respond to a request for comment. In a statement Thursday, Salazar said Lee’s presence would “insult” the Cuban exiles he represents and called Lee an “apologist” for the Cuban regime.
The feud continued on social media, with Salazar accusing Lee of trying to disrupt the hearing and calling her a pro-communist and mouthpiece of the Cuban regime.
“Your unequivocal support for Fidel Castro, who is starving and killing the Cuban people, is communist propaganda,” he said in one of his posts.
Lee responded with a post tagged to Salazar saying he would be happy to discuss Cuban politics and Castro’s legacy with him, “but it really requires you to let me talk.” He included a screenshot 2018 news story About Salazar’s interview with Fidel Castro when he was a journalist in the 1990s.
Sidney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, objected to Salazar’s action at the hearing, saying Lee was not a pawn of the Cuban regime; “She is a Black woman who has just been silenced, denied her rightful voice.”