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Zernike, Aided by Politicized NAACP Report, Again Ventures Out to Find Tea Party Racism

"The nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization" teamed up with an unlabeled left-wing group to accuse the Tea Party of racism two weeks before an election, and the Times' Tea Party-beat reporter Kate Zernike went along for the ride, forwarding an unsubstantiated example of racism that the Times itself has previously denied.

Tea Party beat reporter Kate Zernike's obsession with rooting out alleged Tea Party racism rolled on in her Thursday story, "N.A.A.C.P. Report Raises Concerns About Racism Within Tea Party Groups."

The report, released less than two weeks before the November elections, was actually authored by the far-left Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which promotes abortion rights, gay rights and fighting bigotry and racism, as noted by the Media Research Center's Scott Whitlock. Zernike flattered the NAACP with her opening description, though these days the NAACP is less an honored civil rights organization and more a liberal activist group:

The nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization released a report Wednesday declaring that the Tea Party is "permeated with concerns about race," an assessment that is likely to reignite a feud between the two groups.

The report released by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People 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," it says.


The study was written by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which is dedicated to examining and mobilizing against racist, anti-Semitic and far-right social movements.
It analyzed what it calls six nationwide Tea Party networks at the core of the movement, and concludes that leaders of all but one - FreedomWorks, a libertarian group in Washington headed by Dick Armey, a former House Republican majority leader - have raised questions about the validity of President Obama's birth certificate.


What do birth certificate questions have to do with racism?

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 other conservatives. In fact, the movement is not centralized - the core of it 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 N.A.A.C.P. president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, notes that the vast majority of Tea Party supporters "are sincere, principled people of good will."

But the report 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 during a rally against health care legislation on Capitol Hill in March. 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 inflammatory, unsubstantiated charge that racial epithets were hurled at black congressmen on Capitol Hill in March has been corrected in no less a place than the Times itself, after political reporter Matt Bai forwarded the allegation, without evidence, in a July 2010 column. The Times filed this correction nine days later (emphasis added):

The Political Times column last Sunday, about a generational divide over racial attitudes, erroneously linked one example of a racially charged statement to the Tea Party movement. While Tea Party supporters have been connected to a number of such statements, there is no evidence that epithets reportedly directed in March at Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, outside the Capitol, came from Tea Party members.


In contrast with Zernike's measured approval, Washington Post writer Dana Milbank, no fan of the Tea Party, criticized the report's unveiling by the NAACP, if not the report itself.

The report itself, put together by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, appears to be relatively tame. But the timing - 13 days before the midterm elections - is suspicious, and the unveiling was at times incendiary.

The Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter, used his time on the conference call to liken the Tea Partyers to southern racists during Reconstruction and church bombers and assassins during the civil rights era.