Rep. Karen Bass. | Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP
Rep. Karen Bass, a top-tier contender to be Joe Biden’s running mate, on Saturday sought to clarify remarks she made in 2010 praising the Church of Scientology.
Video emerged on Friday of the California Democrat speaking at a ceremony for a renovated Scientology church in Los Angeles when she served as speaker of the California State Assembly. The Daily Caller first reported the video’s existence.
In her remarks, Bass called on treating humans with respect and fighting oppression, but also spoke highly of the controversial group and its founder, L. Ron Hubbard.
“The Church of Scientology, I know, has made a difference, because your creed is a universal creed and one that speaks to all people everywhere,” Bass said before an audience of some 6,000 attendees. “That is why the words are exciting of your Founder L. Ron Hubbard, in the creed of the Church of Scientology: That all people of whatever race, color or creed are created with equal rights.”
Bass said in a statement she was trying to find an “area of agreement” with the church, which has faced allegations from former members of abuse, human trafficking and intimidation.
“Back in 2010, I attended the event knowing I was going to address a group of people with beliefs very different than my own, and spoke briefly about things I think most of us agree with, and on those things — respect for different views, equality, and fighting oppression — my views have not changed,” Bass tweeted. “Since then, published first-hand accounts in books, interviews and documentaries have exposed this group.”
While Bass did not say in her statement what she thinks about the church, she mentioned that “everyone is now aware” of the allegations against it. The Congressional Black Caucus chair also stated that she’s not a Scientologist, underscoring that she worships at a Baptist church in Los Angeles.
Bass’s record has increasingly come under scrutiny as she has moved toward the top of presumptive Democratic nominee Biden’s vice presidential short list after lobbying by fellow House Democrats.
She has also come under fire from President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign after The Atlantic reported Friday that Bass worked in Cuba in the 1970s with a group aligned with Fidel Castro’s government.
“She was always pro-Castro & later mourned his death,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh tweeted Saturday. “Whether Biden picks her or not, he’s written off Cuban-American voters just by considering her.”
On a call organized by the Trump campaign, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ripped Bass for “showing a stunning amount of interest in the Cuban Revolution,” according to the Palm Beach Post.
“She will be the highest ranking Castro sympathizer in the United States government,” Rubio said about Bass if she’s selected to be Biden’s running mate.
Bass has sought to address the Cuban controversy in recent media appearances.