NBC News late Friday reported that Republican challenger Allen West, who is running in a tight race against Rep. Ron Klein, ignored a supporter's warning not to invite the Outlaws, a national motorcycle gang, to a campaign bike riding event earlier this year.
In its report, NBC said it obtained an exchange of e-mails between West and an unidentified supporter who warned, "criminal organization members in leather riding up [I-]95 is not the picture Allen wants.
West, NBC says, replied: "Please, no more references to criminal," adding, "I was never more amazed at how members of the Outlaws guarded me during an interview.''
In the NBC report, West is asked why he'd "defend" the Outlaws: "I don't think I defended the Outlaws," he says. "Did I say I condone their behavior? That I'm happy for them to do whatever they want?"
The segment -- which says the incident has hurt West among law enforcement Republicans -- was broadcast nationwide on NBC Friday and Democrats pounced, using it to slam West and the GOP.
"Allen West is just the latest Republican candidate with an extremely disturbing past that Republican Leader Boehner and the (National Republican Congressional Committee] have promoted,'' the Democratic Congressional Campaign Commitee said in an e-mail.
West's campaign manager, Josh Grodin, denounced the report as a "political hatchet job by the liberal mainstream media...Let me be perfectly clear, Allen West has absolutely no ties to the outlaw bikers club - an organization with a history of criminal activity, as well as racism against African Americans."