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ABC Finds What It Looked for at Tea Party Confab: 'Anger' and 'Harsh Rhetoric'

"The business of this first ever national Tea Party convention is the nuts and bolts of politics, like voter registration," ABC's John Berman began his Friday night World News story from Nashville, "but barely scratch the surface, and there's a tone of anger and confrontation."

Specifically: "The convention's first speaker, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, said that people who voted for Barack Obama could not pass a basic civics literacy test." Tancredo's offensive remark: "People who could not even spell the word vote put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House." Berman pounced on the rhetoric as out of bounds: "The President a socialist, his supporters illiterate? Today, Tancredo stood by those comments."

Berman showed how attendees shared the bizarre assessment, running soundbites of a man affirming "I believe he is a socialist ideologue" and a woman asserting "You just read his history, he's a Marxist," before finding another man to agree that calling the President's supporters illiterate "was probably a little harsh."

Berman concluded: "One of the goals of this convention is to turn this movement into a political force. The question is, does the harsh rhetoric keep them on the fringe?" Sort of like the media's condemnation of Americans with which they disagree marginalize their influence?

On the up side, at least ABC News sent a reporter to cover the convention, unlike CBS and NBC, neither of which have covered it this week.

The story on the Friday, February 5 World News with Diane Sawyer:

DIANE SAWYER: It's party time in Nashville tonight. Tea party politics. The first national tea party convention surprisingly has only drawn about 600 people. But it didn't take long, the name calling began. John Berman is in Nashville.

JOHN BERMAN: The business of this first ever national Tea Party convention is the nuts and bolts of politics, like voter registration.

WOMAN AT PODIUM: We're all gearing up for November 2010.

BERMAN: But barely scratch the surface, and there's a tone of anger and confrontation.

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: We know what we're here for. A little bit of r and r, for revival and revolt.

BERMAN: The convention's first speaker, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, said that people who voted for Barack Obama could not pass a basic civics literacy test.

TOM TANCREDO: People who could not even spell the word vote put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House.

BERMAN: The President a socialist, his supporters illiterate? Today, Tancredo stood by those comments.

TANCREDO: These people didn't have the slightest idea about what America is all about.

BERMAN: And the leader of the tea party convention had no problem with it, either.

JUDSON PHILLIPS: He did a fantastic job, didn't he?

BERMAN: When we asked delegates what they thought, their feelings about the President were almost universal.

MAN: I believe he is a socialist ideologue.

WOMAN: You just read his history, he's a Marxist.

BERMAN: As for calling the President's supporters illiterate?

SECOND MAN: I think that was probably a little harsh.

BERMAN: The schedule for this convention shows the range of ideas here, everything from a seminar on technology to a speech on the correlations between the current administration and Marxist dictators in Latin America.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: The tea party movement is going through a growing phase. It is very early for a political movement. One of the things that they have to do is kind of re-correct the caricature.

BERMAN: One of the goals of this convention is to turn this movement into a political force. The question is, does the harsh rhetoric keep them on the fringe? John Berman, ABC News, Nashville, Tennessee.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center