The NAACP reignited the debate over the extremism of Tea Parties on
Wednesday, releasing a report alleging ongoing ties between hate groups
and the movement, which the civil rights organization criticizes for
giving a platform to anti-Semites, racists and bigots.
"The result of this study contravenes many of the Tea Parties' self-invented myths,
particularly their supposedly sole concentration on budget deficits,
taxes and the power of the federal government," reads the introduction
to "Tea Party Nationalism," a joint project with the Institute for
Research and Education on Human Rights. "Instead, this report found Tea
Party ranks to be permeated with concerns about race and national
identity and other so-called social issues."
On a call with reporters, NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Jealous
was quick to point out that his organization has no problem with the Tea
Party movement as a whole. "We have no problem with the Tea Party
existing," he said. "We have no problem with the Tea Party expressing
its views in the great debates in our great democracy. We do, however,
have a problem when prominent Tea Party members who have direct ties to
organizations like the Council of Conservative Citizens, are allowed to
use Tea Party events to recruit people for those white supremacist
groups. ... And most importantly, we have a problem when the majority of
the Tea Parties stand silent and doesn't loudly condemn that sort of
The NAACP first stepped into the Tea Party debate with a resolution
issued by its Kansas City, Mo. branch in July, which stated that members
of the movement have "displayed signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally
and President Barack Obama specifically" and added its "racist
elements" are a "a threat to progress." The conservative movement
forcefully responded, with former Alaska governor Sarah Palin condemning
In September, the civil rights organization partnered with ThinkProgress, Media Matters and New Left Media to launch Tea Party Tracker, a site set up to monitor "racism and other forms of extremism in the Tea Party movement."
Jealous said that although some initial "good steps" have been taken
-- such as the Tea Party Express expelling spokesman Mark Williams for
his offensive comments and FreedomWorks making an attempt to highlight more people of color in the movement -- the Tea Parties need to go further and expel all birthers, racists and nativists from their midst.
A release put out by the NAACP specifically lists six individuals it
calls "Troubling Tea Partiers." They include Billy Roper, a white
nationalist who was an enrolled member of ResistNet and is running a
write-in campaign for Arkansas governor, and Wood County Tea Party
leader Karen Pack, who was an "official supporter" of the Ku Klux Klan.
Tea Party organizers are less than thrilled with the NAACP's report.
"Here we go again," said Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation,
told the Kansas City Star. "This is typical of this liberal group's smear tactics."
Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, said the NAACP
has "abandoned the cause of civil rights for the advancement of liberal
Interestingly, "Tea Party Nationalism" debunks a frequent claim that
there is a link between unemployment levels and Tea Party membership.
"This data -- the most comprehensive available on Tea Party online
membership -- provides no convincing evidence of a correlation
between unemployment and membership," notes the report. "As such, it
provides no convincing evidence that unemployment causes Tea Party
What most troubles the report's authors is the fact that the
organizations within the Tea Party movement showing the fastest growth
are the Tea Party Patriots and ResistNet, which have the most diffuse,
locally based structures. "This would tend to indicate a larger movement
less susceptible to central control, and more likely to attract racist
and nativist elements at the local level," the report concludes. "Simply
put, the Tea Parties are not going away after the mid-term elections,
and they can be expected to have a continuing impact on public policy
debate into the future."
On Sunday, "Meet the Press" host David Gregory referenced the NAACP report
in a question to Colorado Senate candidates Michael Bennet and Ken
Buck: "If you're senator, do you think these elements in the Tea Party
need to be dealt with and need to be rebuffed?" Buck replied that he
hasn't seen that sort of racism in the more than 800 events he's been to
in Colorado in the last 20 months. Bennet also said that he hasn't
"seen a lot of that either."
"Apparently, living in Colorado and being involved in politics as
long as they have, they haven't seen Tom Tancredo, who has made repeated
comments, including talking about the need to put the bombing of Mecca
and Medina on the table," said Jealous.