Tea party turns into Klan rally — or so the headline of an opinion piece published by the Baltimore Examiner screamed to readers on Monday after weekend reports that Tea Partiers had hurled racial and homophobic slurs at black and gay congressmen.
Despite the absence of any video footage of the alleged remarks, a number of media outlets have used the reports to accuse the 25,000-plus activists who showed up to the Capitol this weekend of hating not simply President Obama’s health-care bill, but all black people. Unsurprisingly, the Tea Partiers reject this characterization.
“The media ran with these allegations and made that practically the only mention of the event,” said Brendan Steinhauser, a FreedomWorks staffer who organized the weekend’s rallies and said he’s “furious at the coverage.”
“It’s so preposterous that they try to make the whole movement to look like this, even if there was an incident, which there is no proof of,” Steinhauser added. He said there were a number of black people on stage at the Saturday protest, but “do you think people went up there and booed them or yelled racial epithets at them? No.”
On Saturday, a spokesman for Rep. Emanuel Cleaver said that a protestor was detained — and then released — by police after spitting on the congressman. The spokesman also claimed that protesters also hurled racial epithets at Reps. John Lewis, Georgia Democrat, and Andre Carson, Indiana Democrat. A number of reporters claimed to have also heard protesters hurl an anti-gay slur at Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts.
According to an Associated Press report, Carson told a reporter that as he left the Cannon House Office Building the crowd chanted “the N-word, the N-word, 15 times.” Even though video footage of the incident shows a rowdy crowd, none exists that show activists in a racial tirade.
In the Baltimore Examiner story, Melinda Lancaster wrote, “the behavior displayed at Saturday’s rally included an array of racial slurs and anti-gay chants along with spitting and other outlandish actions. This lends proof to the fact that these rallies are no longer ‘harmless’ but ‘hateful’ and have taken on the same demeanor as a Ku Klux Klan rally.”
In another piece, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein wrote that a reporter questioned black Rep. James Clyburn * on if he “wanted an apology from the group of Republican lawmakers who had addressed the crowd and, in many ways, played on their worst fears of health-care legislation, the Democratic Party and the president.” Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell wrote, “Many African Americans had already suspected some of these people are more opposed to the skin color of the man in the White House than they were to the president’s political ideology.”
The New York Daily News offered this suggestion to the Tea Party: “They might want to think about renaming it the Nastea Party.”
“I’ve never really been convinced of this, but Sunday I think I became convinced,” Steinhauser said. “There are elements of the media who want to tar us as racists, who want to discredit us, because they support the Obama agenda and that’s the only thing they can use when that many people show up to hurt us.”
MSNBC has been a villain of the Tea Partiers, with hosts like Dylan Ratigan and Keith Olbermann, who said Monday night, “if racism is not the whole of the Tea Party, it is in its heart.” But after Olbermann recently criticized activists for their lack of diversity, the Dallas Tea Party group produced a video bringing attention to NBC’s all-white line up.