Politico reports when Rep. Karen Bass’ “friend and mentor” died three years ago, she eulogized the community organizer’s passing in remarks she inserted into the Congressional Record.
The California Democrat described Oneil Marion Cannon as a one-man force in progressive politics who became the “union printer to the left” in Los Angeles, where he worked for “interracial and intercultural understanding,” opened a community hub and even once “belonged to the Independent Progressive Party.”
Left out of the 406-word eulogy: Cannon was a top member of the Communist Party USA for decades.
That omitted detail and her little-noticed 2017 eulogy today takes on outsize importance now that Bass is on Joe Biden’s VP shortlist. As quickly as the congresswoman and former speaker of the California state Assembly shot into serious contention for Biden’s No. 2, she has come under intense scrutiny, prompting questions about whether Biden would be risking too much by selecting a politician just now coming under the glare of the national spotlight.
President Donald Trump and his campaign have seized on the spate of stories about Bass’ ties to Cuba, and some Democrats in Florida fear she could cost Biden the swing state and drag down congressional and state Senate candidates, particularly in Miami.
Biden’s campaign has taken incoming since POLITICO first reported in late June that she referred to Cuban dictator Fidel Castro as “comandante en jefe,” a sobriquet of respect used by the island’s Communist Party, in November 2016, about two months before her remarks about Cannon. Bass’ office stood by her Castro remarks in June, but she backed away from them Sunday in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
A spokesman for Bass downplayed her affiliation with Cannon, comparing her friendship with him to her relationship with the House Republican leader.
“Karen Bass has always been a Democrat and only a Democrat. The Congresswoman is friends with Kevin McCarthy and is not a Republican. She knew Oneil Cannon but never shared the political ideology he may have had at one time in his life,” Bass spokesman Zach Seidl wrote in a statement.