NAACP backs report that ties racist groups to tea party
Wednesday, October 20, 2010; 10:30 PM
A new report, backed by the NAACP, has found what it says are efforts by white nationalist groups and militias to link themselves to the tea party movement.
The report, called Tea Party Nationalism, uses news articles, visits to white nationalist Web sites and observance of tea party functions to claim that tea party events have become a forum for extremists "hoping to push these (white) protesters toward a more self-conscious and ideological white supremacy."
Its findings cite that members of groups such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, which opposes all efforts to "mix the races of mankind," have become involved in tea party chapters, and that posters on the online white nationalist Web site Stormfront.org have written of "inflitrating" tea party events.
The report was issued by the Kansas City, Mo.-based Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which is funded, in part, by the liberal Firedoll Foundation. The paper was authored by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, both of whom have written widely about white nationalism.
The more formalized and politically active tea party organizations have made statements repudiating racism, and some tea party leaders have expelled members who have expressed racist sentiment.
The report focuses primarily on the more diffusely affiliated tea party networks online and in county-level chapters throughout the country. It also singles out five members of various tea party groups, one of whom has been expelled from the movement, as having ties to anti-Semitic, militia or white nationalist groups.
One person highlighted in the report is Roan Garcia-Quintana, a member of ResistNet who served as media spokesman for a 2010 Tax Day Tea Party in South Carolina and is running for state Senate. He has also been active with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the report says is linked to groups that defended Jim Crow segregation in the 1950s and '60s.
"I can't talk about what people were doing in the 1950s because I wasn't in this country," said Garcia-Quintana, who was born in Cuba and raised in Savannah. "There's a difference between being proud of where you come from and racism. We should be able to celebrate price as Europeans and Caucasians. What troubles me is it seems like if you're not some kind of minority, you're supposed to be ashamed of that. . . . As a tea party organizer, all I'm trying to do is to be a community organizer."
The council's chief executive, Gordon Baum, said: "We are conservative, so it is natural that some of our people would get caught up in this [tea party] and participate to some degree, but there is certainly no concerted effort on our part to get our members to be involved."
Baum described his group as "opposed to quotas that discriminate against whites" and "for limiting immigration." "In the South, some of our chapters are very active in preserving their culture, you know, the Confederate flag," Baum said.
The national coordinator of Tea Party Patriots, one of the groups mentioned in the report, said the report's claims were not credible. "The Tea Party has only articulated three core values for the entire movement," said Jenny Beth Martin. "They are limited government, fiscal responsibility and support for free markets. Everything we say and do is in support of these values. There is no credible method of making these values racist."
This summer some tea party groups cut ties to former Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams for a fictional letter he posted on his blog from "Colored People" to Abraham Lincoln, and have repeatedly said they are not motivated by racism.
NAACP President Benjamin Jealous said in a conference call Wednesday morning that, in backing the report: "We're not attacking the tea party. We're not calling the tea party racist. We are asking them to repudiate the racists in their midst. We have challenged Democratic Party in the same way. We challenged Republicans when they embraced the old Dixiecrats."
In the summer NAACP members called on tea party groups to "repudiate" what they called "racist elements" in the movement. Since then, the NAACP and various tea party supporters have clashed publicly over their motivation. In a July post on Twitter, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin challenged the notion that her fellow tea party advocates promote racism: "I'm busy today so notify me asap when NAACP renders verdict: are liberty-loving, equality-respecting patriots racist? Bated breath, waiting . . ." Jealous has criticized tea party supporter and conservative commentator Glenn Beck as divisive.
Wednesday's report also noted the presence of "birthers," or people who think President Obama was born outside the United States, within the tea party movement.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released earlier this year found that 35 percent of strong tea party backers said they believed Obama was born in another country. The same percentage of conservative Republicans agreed.
The poll also found that supporters and opponents of the tea party are worlds apart on the question of what motivates the movement. Fifty-seven percent of people who oppose the tea party suspect its members of racial prejudice. That declined to a quarter of those who are neutral toward the movement, and 10 percent of tea party supporters considered prejudice as a motivation.
Other analysts who have begun to study the burgeoning political force have come to the opposite conclusion. A report on political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month found that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government's economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.
Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, told the Kansas City Star that the report by the small Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, is a "liberal smear." "Here we go again," he said.