NAACP watches for 'tea party' racism, stirs controversy
NAACP leaders have a message for the members of the tea party movement: We're watching you.
The civil rights group has partnered with three liberal media Web sites to form a "tea party tracker" intent on monitoring "racism and other forms of extremism" within the tea party movement.
The online project, which was developed and branded by the NAACP's new media staff, has already drawn strong criticism from tea party supporters, who have said repeatedly that racism plays no role in their movement.
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, said the project was started because NAACP leaders kept hearing from its members that they were seeing racist signs, T-shirts and commentary coming from the tea party movement.
"The site is set up to be utilized as a tool to track activities as they come up," Shelton said. "It is in some ways consistent with the kind of tracking that has been done of other extremist entities. I do not want to suggest that the tea party is a hate group, but there are some disturbing elements within."
The conservative Web site Daily Caller first reported the story about the site, which features a blog, breaking news section and the tagline "a watched pot never boils."
Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for Freedomworks - which supports many tea party groups - called the ongoing conversation about racism and the tea party frustrating.
Steinhauser said liberal groups don't hold themselves to as strict a standard. For example, he said, at antiwar rallies during the Bush administration there were signs showing communist decals and supporting communist leaders Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il.
"There's such a different standard we're held to," Steinhauser said. "Both sides have to self-police. We should all hold ourselves accountable."
The tracker's launch comes a month and a half after NAACP members voted overwhelmingly to condemn "racist elements" within the tea party. Members of the conservative movement responded by saying that the civil rights group was "attempting to silence" the tea party with "inflammatory name-calling."
Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart said the NAACP's resolution was the instigation for his release of a selectively edited video that made it appear that federal agriculture official Shirley Sherrod had discriminated against a white farmer. Sherrod was fired and condemned by the NAACP before the full video was released, which showed that Sherrod had actually helped the farmer and was telling a story of racial redemption. President Obama and NAACP officials apologized to Sherrod, who said she was targeted because the NAACP had called out the tea party.