Republican Rep. Allen West, describing himself as a "modern-day Harriet Tubman," said Wednesday he wants to lead black voters on an underground railroad away from the Democratic Party.
The Florida congressman, who is black, was responding to a raucous town hall meeting hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Tuesday in Detroit. Participants vented to Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, who in turn voiced frustration with President Obama and asked the crowd to "unleash" her and other black lawmakers on the White House.
But West, the only Republican member of the CBC, told Fox News the Democratic Party as a whole has let black voters down.
"You have this 21st-century plantation that has been out there. Where the Democrat Party has forever taken the black vote for granted and you have established certain black leaders who are nothing more than the overseers of that plantation. And now the people on that plantation are upset because they've been disregarded, disrespected and their concerns are not cared about," West said.
"So I'm here as the modern-day Harriet Tubman to kind of lead people on the underground railroad away from that plantation into a sense of sensibility."
West said Democrats' "social welfare policies" have failed.
Florida Democrats blasted West's comments and demanded an apology.
"Rep. West's comparison of himself to one of our nation's treasured human rights leaders is outrageously insulting and beyond offensive to African Americans everywhere," said state Rep. Joe Gibbons.
"Allen West's remarks comparing himself to Harriet Tubman, an American treasure and civil rights icon, is truly outrageous," Florida Democratic Party Executive Director Scott Arceneaux said.
"It would be just plain sad if West were not representing the people of Florida in Congress and contemplating a U.S. Senate run," he continued. "This is the kind of disregard for others and bizarre, out-of-touch behavior we have come to expect from Tea Party Republican West, and it's an insult to the people he represents as well as our state."
Racial tensions were flaring at the meeting in Detroit where Waters was in the hot seat.
Waters said the Congressional Black Caucus "loves" the president, but it is frustrated.
"We're getting tired, y'all," she said. "We want to give him every opportunity. But our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. ... When you let us know it is time to let go, we'll let go."
The unemployment rate for African Americans is 15.9 percent while nationwide it stands at 9.1 percent.