Fall 2010, 2010; Source: NAACP | The NAACP is distributing a new report prepared by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights on “the links between certain Tea Party factions and acknowledged racist hate groups in the United States.”
In his forward to this report, NAACP President and CEO Ben Todd Jealous declares, “We know the majority of Tea Party supporters are sincere, principled people of good will.” That being said, the report delves into evidence of “those Tea Party leaders who espouse racist ideas, advocate violence, or are formally affiliated with white supremacist organizations.”
The IREHR authors tell many of the well known stories about over-the-edge Tea Party personalities such as Mark Williams formerly of the Tea Party Express, ousted after he penned a racist rant that he said was satire, though that was by no means his first foray into repulsive racial imagery. The report also details examples of McCarthyist ravings about Muslims embedded in government and the military, Tea Party protestors calling Congressman John Lewis the n-word and spitting on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, and other examples of obnoxiously racist language or images.
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The report is not long on specific events or statements that can be attributed to Tea Party organizations as opposed to the positions of Tea Party people with extreme views—the anti-immigrant crowd with vile commentary about Mexican immigrants, the “birthers” challenging President Obama’s legitimacy as President, and more. But you can hear many of the same comments in regular commentary on Fox News from Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and ubiquitous guest commentator Michelle Malkin. Heck, even on “The View,” guest Bill O’Reilly blamed Muslims in general for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, prompting Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar to storm off the set.
The IREHR report is better on descriptions of various local and regional Tea Party organizations and how they interact, sometimes less than collegially, and the interactions of Tea Party groups with social conservatives such as anti-immigrant and anti-Muslims organizations. The report may not make a hugely compelling case of sanctioned or tolerated Tea Party racism, but it reveals a movement that describes itself as basically libertarian, with plenty of streams of traditional social conservatism on race and immigration.—Rick Cohen