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Report Links the Tea Party to Extreme Racist Elements

October 20, 2010
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The nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization declares the Tea Party“permeated with concerns about race” in a new report that is likely to reignite a feud between the two groups.

The report by the NAACP, released Wednesday morning, argues that Tea Party groups “have given platform to anti-Semites, racists, and bigots,” and have attracted white nationalists looking for recruits.

“The Tea Party movement has unleashed a still inchoate political movement who are in their numerical majority, angry middle class white people who believe their country, their nation, has been taken from them,” argues the report, called Tea Party Nationalism.

Written by Leonard Ziskind, an author who has written extensively on white nationalism, the report looks at what it calls six nationwide Tea Party networks at the core of the movement. It says that leaders of all but one —FreedomWorks, a libertarian group in Washington headed by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey – have raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate or have ties to white supremacist groups.

Most of the groups the report focuses on are better described as social media networks that predate the Tea Party movement but have become popular among Tea Party activists, among others. The core of the movement remains local Tea Party and 9/12 groups, which are harder to analyze because of their diffuse nature; the report explicitly notes that it did not make an effort to examine these groups.

And a foreword from the group’s president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, notes that the vast majority of Tea Party supporters “are sincere, principled people of good will.”

But the NAACP also points to signs at Tea Party rallies with explicitly racist or racially charged language. It notes that several black congressmen accused Tea Party supporters of shouting racial epithets at them in March, during a rally against health care legislation on Capitol Hill. And Mr. Jealous called on Tea Party leaders to repudiate this kind of racism, as well as ties to white supremacist groups and “birthers” within the ranks of the movement.

The NAACP passed a similar resolution seeking such a repudiation at its convention in July. Tea Party leaders reacted angrily, saying there was said that there was no proof that the incidents outside the Capitol had occurred. And they have long said that they do not harbor racists.

Still, the NAACP report notes that slowly, Tea Party leaders have expelled leaders accused of making racist remarks – a move it calls “welcome first steps.”

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