NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel returned to his home turf in the city’s Harlem neighborhood on Saturday, saying he still loves Congress — despite a showdown with colleagues over ethics violations that led to his censure by the House.
“I have not lost my ability to love the Congress and to love this country,” the 80-year-old Democrat told reporters at Harlem Hospital, where a crowd at a town hall meeting gave him a standing, cheering ovation as he entered.
Dapper in a dark suit and tie, Rangel appeared confident and as defiant as ever about the allegations that led to his public scolding Thursday.
When asked whether he would ever specifically address the 11 ethics charges of which a House subcommittee found him guilty, he cited the website of the House Ethics Committee, saying it shows that “Charles Rangel is not guilty of corruption or self-enrichment.”
The House found the congressman had failed to pay taxes on a vacation villa, filed misleading financial disclosure forms and improperly solicited donations for a college center from corporations with business before his committee.
On Saturday, Rangel acknowledged some mistakes — calling himself “sloppy” and “overzealous” — but said he never enriched himself while trying to help minority college students at the City University of New York.
“But there was no deception involved,” he added.
Speaking in a firm voice, he faced TV cameras and told the news conference: “I was not found guilty of corruption, I did not go to bed with kids, I did not hurt the House speaker, I did not start a revolution against the United States of America, I did not steal any money, I did not take any bribes and that is abundantly clear.”
The congressman saved his ire for the media, rather than fellow members of Congress.
He called members of the media “you band of reporters” — who he said “could continually tell a story knowing that it’s false.”
The 20-term lawmaker vowed that this weekend would be the last time he would speak about the matter.
In the coming months, which follow his re-election to Congress, Rangel promised to keep working on issues important to his constituents.
“I have two more years under the Obama administration; I have a job to do,” he said.
On Saturday, he turned his attention to Harlem Hospital, where the town hall meeting centered around proposed improvements in the community’s health care.
The hospital is a block away from the apartment building where Rangel lives, and where the ethics committee found he had violated New York City rules by housing his political committees in rent-controlled apartments.
Rangel insists, however, that he never violated any rent-regulation law.
And he said that despite the 333-79 censure vote against him, he was buoyed by “a standing ovation in Congress. … Washington is behind me.”
Asked how he felt two days after the very visible rebuke before the nation, he said: “I’m OK.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)