WASHINGTON — A group of black political activists today defended the tea party movement against accusations of racism and claimed its critics were using race to shore up support for President Barack Obama and his policies.
The news conference, organized by the group Tea Party Express, was a response to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which three weeks ago condemned as racist signs and slurs at tea party rallies. The move revived infighting within the Tea Party movement and led to the departure of Mark Williams, a Tea Party Express leader who had written a blog post describing “coloreds” as lazy. Williams, a longtime Tea Party Express spokesman known for incendiary comments, said the post was satirical.
“No matter his intent, Mark’s response to the NAACP’s claims were unwise and proved to be counterproductive,” said William Owens, a spokesman for the Sacramento, Calif.-based Tea Party Express.
The group’s slow response to Williams’ post should “by no means should be interpreted as racist … but was borne out of loyalty to a friend but not in defense of his words.”
The concession was a rare one in series of attacks on the civil rights institution, the president and his policies.
Speakers described the NAACP as irrelevant and silent on the issues most important to African-Americans. The group is trying to scare blacks into supporting Democrats, charged Niger Innis, spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, saying the NAACP “racial terror” tactic was borrowed from the Ku Klux Klan.
“The same terror that was employed by whites in hoods is now being employed by blacks and whites in suits,” Innis said.
Alfonzo Rachel, a commentator for the conservative PJTV website, said the NAACP was made up of the “same kind of people who would rat out a runaway slave.”
Representatives for the NAACP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“What America does not realize is that we don’t have two parties anymore. We have ideologies. We have socialism, and we have liberalism. We have unrighteousness; we have anti-God policies; we have ‘Destroy America.’ That’s what the D is for in Democrat Party,” said Mary Baker, founder of Conservative Moms for America.
Alan Keyes, the 2004 Republican nominee for Senate in Illinois and frequent presidential candidate, said Obama and the Democrats had tried to sell blacks “the phony promise of socialism and government largesse. It simply means that we should all become slaves on the government plantation.”
The group said they did not believe black lawmakers’ claims that tea party protesters had shouted racial epithets at a rally in March. They said many protest signs often described as racist were misunderstood or taken out of context.
Tea Party Express is run by GOP political consultant Sal Russo and supports fiscally conservative candidates through the country. It has organized cross-country tours of tea party rallies and has run ads supporting Republican candidates in Nevada, Alaska and Massachusetts.