A Republican congressman from northern Wisconsin who derided Madison as a communist haven is not backing down from his comments even as those in the capital city that prides itself as being “77 square miles surrounded by reality” take offense.
Rep. Sean Duffy, who lives about 140 miles north in Wausau, called Madison a “communist community” in a recent Fox News interview and blasted the ongoing presidential recount.
He alleged that election officials in Dane County, where Madison is located, were purposefully stalling so Wisconsin would miss the Dec. 13 deadline for certifying the vote — even though all indications are that the county will complete its vote on time.
After Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan demanded an apology on Wednesday, both sides took to Twitter to battle it out.
“The PC crowd is humorless,” Duffy, a former star of MTV’s “The Real World” in the 1990s, tweeted. “For those offended by my ‘communist’ comment, I’ll send a therapy dog to your ‘safe place’ of choice in Madison.”
Madison Mayor Paul Soglin called Duffy a “liar,” “moron” and “charlatan.”
“I’m probably giving him too much credit by calling him a moron since he is so adept in misleading the good people of his district, folks who deserve better in regards to jobs and the future of their children,” Soglin said.
The only thing communist about Madison is that revenue generated there is redistributed to help economically struggling communities in Duffy’s district, Soglin said (although the left-leaning mayor did famously lead a delegation to Cuba in 1975 and gave Fidel Castro the key to the city).
Residents of Madison have long embraced their place as a liberal bastion, taking pride in the city’s unofficial motto as “77 square miles surrounded by reality” — a line originally credited (with lesser square mileage) to former Republican Gov. Lee Dreyfus during his 1978 gubernatorial campaign.
Soglin, in fact, attempted to make it the city’s official motto in 2013.
Democrat Hillary Clinton received 80 percent of the vote in Madison, while Donald Trump won Duffy’s home county with 57 percent of the vote.
Duffy is a vocal supporter of Trump and has been a frequent commentator on national news programs discussing Trump’s transition to the White House. He is also on the executive committee for Trump’s transition team.
Duffy’s northern Wisconsin district voted for Trump in the Republican primary, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz won the state by about 22,000 votes. With 70 percent of the general election vote recounted, Trump has only lost 82 votes so far to Clinton.
Duffy said in the Fox interview last week that Dane County was taking “as long as they can” in recounting the votes. He falsely claimed that it was the only county doing a hand recount. It is one of 47 counties doing hand recounts. Another 13 are doing both hand and machine recounts, according to the state Elections Commission.
Dane County Election Clerk Scott McDonell said Thursday that workers have been recounting ballots 14 hours a day since the recount began to finish by the deadline, rejecting Duffy’s claims they were stalling.
“It’s a sad state of affairs for these Democrats who don’t believe in democracy and freedom and free elections,” Duffy said of Madison, which he described as a “progressive, liberal, communist community.”
Pocan, who represents Madison in Congress and used to live in the city, said Duffy ignores the fact that Madison is an economic driver for the whole state.
“His insinuation that my constituents are somehow un-American for exercising their political views is extremely alarming,” Pocan said in a statement.
“At a time when our country stands divided, Congressman Duffy’s ‘Trumpizing’ of Wisconsin is the wrong direction for our state.”
After Duffy reacted to that by accusing people in Madison of being humorless, Pocan shot back on Twitter.
“Humorless is better than being senseless about Dane County providing 73% of new jobs in WI,” Pocan said. “Perhaps a $175K salary distorts your views.”
State Sen. Jon Erpenbach, who lives just outside of Madison and represents Dane County in the Legislature, called Duffy’s remarks “extremely offensive” and “beneath” a congressman.
“Their job is to build bridges, not burn them,” Erpenbach said. “I expect that out of a talk show radio host but not a congressman.”