Tea Party leaders say a series of reports by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) attempting to connect the Tea Party movement with domestic terrorists in the militia movement shows how desperate the left has become trying to stop the political juggernaut.
The group says individuals such as Glenn Beck, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — all regulars at major Tea Party gatherings — have given widespread visibility for ideas espoused by the militia movement, or the “Patriot movement” as SPLC calls it.
According to SPLC, the Patriot movement — largely comprised of white supremacists — was animated in the 1990s by a shared view of the federal government as the enemy and a belief the Federal Emergency Management Agency secretly runs concentration camps.
“The ‘tea parties’ and similar groups that have sprung up in recent months cannot fairly be considered extremist groups, but they are shot through with rich veins of radical ideas, conspiracy theories and racism,” Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, wrote in a piece titled “Rage On The Right: The Year In Hate And Extremism” from the group’s Spring 2010 edition of its Intelligence Report.
SPLC also sees a connection between the “paranoid” antigovernment ideas espoused by extremist militias, racist skinheads, and the ideas espoused by prominent Tea Partiers.
Accordingly, Palin’s February speech before the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tenn., where she said “America is ready for another revolution” features alongside events such as Oklahoma City bombing and the uncovering of various attempted militia terror plots since the 1990s in SPLC’s Patriot movement timeline.
Similarly, SPLC accuses Bachmann of giving “even the most paranoid militiaman a run for his money” on account of her stances against cap and trade because she jokingly told a radio show: “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax because we need to fight back.”
SPLC attacks Beck for having run a series of segments on his show for entertaining the idea FEMA runs concentration camps prior to debunking them, which it insinuates puts the popular host is in the same category as the followers of the militia movement and other extremists.
Bachmann dismisses SPLC’s attacks as a “desperate” effort to discredit the Tea Party movement because of its effectiveness.
“Clearly the Tea Party is a threat to the radical left. It has become clear that anybody who opposes the Obama agenda is part of the Tea Party,” Bachmann said in an e-mailed statement to The Daily Caller. “The Tea Party is a movement not a political party, it is Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, constitutional party individuals and everyone in between. It is full of political and apolitical individuals, who all deeply care for our nation and are opposed to the liberal agenda takeover.
Bachmann continued: “The Tea Party goes after the ideology of out-of-touch liberals like President Obama and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, yet when it comes to liberals going after Tea Party activists, they focus on personal politics of destruction. Liberals are desperate, they are up against the wall and will stop at nothing to discredit this great grassroots movement that represents Americans who are fed up with this administration.”
Former New York Gov. George Pataki, who runs a group called Revere America, likewise believes the SPLC articles equal an effort to frighten voters.
“From the beginning, they’ve tried discrediting,” Pataki told TheDC. “They’ve been pretending that all of those who are so upset with the direction of Washington have somehow been paid to show up rather than being patriotic Americans who are very unhappy with the course of Washington.
“Then they tried to portray it as a violent group when it wasn’t, and now they portray it as a racist group and it’s not. To me it’s sad that they would dismiss what is truly an expression of American democracy.”
Other tea party leaders also see irony in SPLC’s claims the movement and its leaders are “paranoid” and looking for conspiracies because they fail to confront their own conspiracy theories.
“That seems to me to be exactly what the SPLC is doing in this case,” said Let Freedom Ring President Colin Hanna, a regular speaker at Tea Party events. “There is no credible evidence of any such alleged extremism in the rather idealistic and morally American Tea Party movement that has emerged in the last year or two.”
SPLC declined to comment.