A prominent black Republican said attempts to label Tea Partiers as racists reflects a decades-long strategy by liberals to play the race card to discredit opponents.
“It is a strategy that has been used for the last 50 years by the left to create an image that they can exploit and that they can use to marginalize a movement they dislike,” said Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio secretary of state and candidate for RNC chairman.
Blackwell, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in Ohio in 2006 and since has been involved in Tea Party events in his state, said “a concerted effort is being made to demonize and marginalize and destroy an expanding citizen-based movement.”
Since last weekend — when protesters stormed Capitol Hill as legislators passed President Obama’s health-care overhaul — Tea Partiers have been accused both by Democrats and the media of racism after rumors circulated that protesters had hurled racial epithets and spat on black congressmen. A number of Tea Party leaders have been doubtful that the incidents actually occurred and have said they would not support it if it had.
Asked about media coverage of the accusations, Blackwell said the press has “been selective in their criticism” and that “they turn a blind eye to individual acts of poor taste and bigotry on the left.”
Blackwell added that “if the alleged statements were made by individuals on the right, there’s no cause to paint a citizens based movement with a broad brush.”
Asked what could be done to bring in more black people to the movement, he dismissed the idea of specifically working to target more of a specific ethnic group, saying “there are no racial quotas in the Tea Party movement” and that “this is a real spontaneous citizen based reaction.”
Blackwell also dismissed the notion that the Tea Party is solely a white party. “There are plenty of Latino, African-Americans and Asians who are distrustful of big government and who love individual liberty and they speak out both within the Tea Party movement and outside of it.”