Five Democratic congresswomen on Wednesday called for GOP Rep. Allen West to apologize for his email tirade against a fellow Florida lawmaker.
Reps. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Donna Edwards of Maryland, Jackie Speier of California and Lois Capps of California denounced West for calling Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz "vile, despicable and cowardly" after she criticized his stance on Medicare.
"His words were nothing more than personal attacks," said Maloney, who appeared with her four female colleagues at a news conference. "It's incredibly disrespectful."
The congresswomen, who said they were friends as well as colleagues of Wasserman Schultz, also called on the GOP leadership to rebuke West for his outburst.
The controversy began Tuesday when Wasserman Schultz called into question West's stance on Medicare during the debate over a spending cap and balanced budget bill before the House.
West, a first-term Republican from south Florida, responded by sending an email to numerous lawmakers as well as Wasserman Schultz, who also is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.
The subject line of the email: "Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman Schultz."
The email said: "Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me. Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the US House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up."
In her remarks on the House floor, Wasserman Schultz said: "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."
She was alluding to a GOP-backed bill to reduce the debt and amend the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget.
In his email, West said Wasserman Schultz has proven "that you are not a Lady" and "shall not be afforded due respect from me!" He said he was alerting House leaders to her "heinous characterless behavior."
Moore said that such attacks are often made against women who seem strong and knowledgeable.
"There's always someone who will rebuke them (the women) for not being a lady," Moore said.
There is some history between the two Florida lawmakers. Wasserman Schultz and other women protested outside West's campaign office about columns that West wrote appearing in a biker magazine. The protesters said the magazine denigrated women.