House Democrats lined up to excoriate GOP Rep. Allen West on Wednesday after he sent an incendiary email to the Democratic party chairwoman calling her "vile" and "not a lady."
The head of the Congressional Black Caucus told Fox News on Wednesday that members are "furious" about the incident, saying he's going to speak with the Florida Republican about the matter. Shortly afterward, several female lawmakers held a news conference, at which they called on West to apologize.
"His words were nothing more than personal attacks," Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said, adding that she hopes House Speaker John Boehner "disavows" West's remarks. She said it is "very ladylike to speak up for the values that you believe in."
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., also released a statement saying she was "shocked" by the "disgraceful" email. "Instead of engaging constructively in that debate, Representative West chose to resort to unprofessional, vitriolic and offensive personal attacks -- shame on him," she said.
The lawmakers are urging House leaders to rebuke West, though West told Fox News that GOP leaders are "fine" with his actions.
West fired off the email Tuesday to Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, calling her "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable" member of the House for calling into question his stance on Medicare on the House floor.
"It's unfortunate," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told Fox News. He could not say whether the CBC would seek to discipline its only Republican member, but claimed lawmakers were upset the incident has brought "undue attention" to the caucus.
The CBC was planning to discuss the email at its weekly meeting Wednesday, but votes got in the way and the caucus now plans to discuss the issue at a later date. In the meantime, Cleaver said, "I'm going to talk to him."
Elsewhere, House Democrats' campaign arm quickly seized on the exchange, blasting out a fundraising pitch Wednesday asking donors to help them raise $100,000 toward defeating West next fall. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Steve Israel called West's email "disgraceful" and "hate-filled," urging supporters to make sure Republicans "don't forget this moment."
West, though, stood by the email.
"I think it's important to stake my ground," West told Fox News on Tuesday. "It was about enough is enough, and it's my right to say that. She is the one elevating this."
In her remarks on the House floor, Wasserman Schultz had 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. The House later approved the bill 234-190, but it is unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate.
West sent his email to numerous lawmakers, as well as Wasserman Schultz and other congressional leaders. The subject line of the email: "Unprofessional and Inappropriate Sophomoric Behavior from Wasserman Schultz."
The e-mail 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."
West also wrote that 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."
A spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, Jonathan Beeton, said in an email of his own: "I don't think that Congressman West is upset at the congresswoman, but rather with the fact that she highlighted that he and other Republicans are once again trying to balance the budget on the backs of seniors, children and the middle class. ... The truth hurts."
West told Fox News that Wasserman Schultz's comments were part of a "pattern" of "hate," and he felt that she "disrespected" him in her House floor speech.
"You don't need to call me out on your time to speak on the floor," West said. "Focus on what is your plan for the debt ceiling."
House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., whom West copied on his email, defended the tea party-backed freshman.
"Tensions are building here sure," McCarthy told Fox News on Tuesday. "Allen is going to defend himself. There's always a way to display that differently."
Fox News' Chad Pergram and the Associated Press contributed to this report.