WASHINGTON — Following a combative campaign, Rep.-elect Allen West has hired as his chief of staff a conservative radio talk show host from South Florida who's railed against illegal immigration, touted the tea party and pummeled President Barack Obama for speaking to schoolchildren.
Joyce Kaufman, 56, a radio presence for 20 years in South Florida, acknowledged on her show Tuesday that the appointment has her critics "carrying on" and saying "nasty, terrible things" about her.
"If I wasn't scaring the enemy and Lt. Col. Allen West wasn't scaring everybody, then we wouldn't be doing what we were called to do," she said. "We're supposed to be different. He's supposed to be a different kind of representative.'
West was a frequent guest on Kaufman's 12 to 3 p.m. shift on WFTL-AM (850) during the election in which the tea party-backed candidate raised millions and tapped voter discontent to oust Democratic Rep. Ron Klein. The two also headlined a number of campaign rallies and Kaufman said in a telephone interview Tuesday that West had "picked my brain for years. I've been on the air in the market for 20 years and if anyone knows what the district needs, I do," she said. She said she met Tuesday with "the greatest advisors in the world," — former Republican Reps. Clay Shaw and Mark Foley — to talk about the job, which entails running the congressional office, hiring staff and advising West.
Kaufman can be as fiery as her new boss.
In September 2009, Kaufman was part of the nationwide outcry among conservatives who criticized President Barack Obama for a speech welcoming kids back to school.
In April 2010, she bashed Pompano Beach city commissioners for allowing a local Muslim leader to say a prayer in Arabic and English prior to a public meeting.
A 2007 Miami New Times profile included an accusation that she had said that illegal immigrants should be hanged in public squares as invaders. Kaufman told the newspaper that the "hanging" comment came from a listener and that it was taken out of context.
News reports said she likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Tuesday to "garbage."
West's campaign manager, Josh Grodin, who was named deputy chief of staff, said he wasn't familiar with Kaufman's show. But he said West is comfortable with her and is depending on Kaufman to tell him "the truth, even when it's not good news."
"People who are saying it was an unusual choice are basing it on the status quo and that's not where they're from," Grodin said. "The status quo hasn't been doing that well in Washington."
Kaufman promised her listeners that she'd keep West mindful of who sent him to Washington.
"If they get co-opted and become the same elitist breed that we've seen over and over again in both parties, then none of this will amount to a hill of beans," she said of the new class of conservative lawmakers heading to Washington.