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Politico's VandeHei Takes NAACP to Task for Labeling Tea Party Racist

Appearing on Wednesday's Dylan Ratigan Show on MSNBC to discuss the Shirley Sherrod controversy, Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei pointed out the NAACP's role in fueling racial accusations: "If you think about this, where this thing started, the NAACP comes out and makes this charge against the tea party movement."

VandeHei rejected the NAACP's claim of racism in the political movement: "It's a very, very diffuse group. You cannot say that they are racist anymore then you can say the Republican Party's racist or the Democratic Party is racist, so it creates this culture and it's a dangerous topic, it's a dangerous fire to light, and then when it happens this is the outcome."

Explaining how the NAACP charge led to the accusations against Sherrod, VandeHei observed: "I'm not defending Breitbart. But conservatives are outraged, they feel like 'listen, you're - because I'm part of the tea party movement you say, therefore, I'm racist.' And so what Breitbart's arguing is 'I want to push back.'"

Opposite VandeHei was Washington Post writer Jonathan Capehart, who tried to excuse the civil rights organization: "The NAACP went to great lengths to say they were talking about racist elements within the tea party movement....Very nuanced thing here. He's not broad-brushing the movement." VandeHei countered: "...very nuanced but very explosive. They knew exactly once you make that statement, whether you're trying to add nuance to the statement or not, you know exactly what's going to happen when you make that charge."

Here is a transcript of the July 21 exchange:

4:18PM

JIM VANDEHEI: Can I talk about the NAACP for one second.

DYLAN RATIGAN: Go for it.

VANDEHEI: Because I do think they're getting off the hook a little bit.

RATIGAN: I agree with you.

VANDEHEI: If you think about this, where this thing started, the NAACP comes out and makes this charge against the tea party movement.

RATIGAN: Yeah.

VANDEHEI: We've probably written more stories about the tea party movement than any other organization. We've really tried to study this group. It's a very, very diffuse group. You cannot say that they are racist anymore then you can say the Republican Party's racist or the Democratic Party is racist, so it creates this culture and it's a dangerous topic, it's a dangerous fire to light, and then when it happens this is the outcome. So conservatives-

JONATHAN CAPEHART: But Jim-

VANDEHEI: I'm not defending Breitbart. But conservatives are outraged, they feel like 'listen, you're - because I'm part of the tea party movement you say, therefore, I'm racist.' And so what Breitbart's arguing is 'I want to push back.' Now I'm not saying what Breitbart did was right because clearly it wasn't right and the outcome was awful for this woman, but both sides, I think, come off looking very, very bad and that's why Joe Biden and - and Steny Hoyer both said they didn't agree with the NAACP's charge.

RATIGAN: Go ahead, Jonathan.

CAPEHART: Jim, but here's the thing. The NAACP went to great lengths to say they were talking about racist elements within the tea party movement and even Ben Jealous said point blank that he did not say - think that the entire tea party movement was racist. He wanted leaders of the tea party movement to disavow those racist elements. Very nuanced thing here. He's not broad-brushing the movement.

VANDEHEI: Very nuanced, but Jonathan - but very nuanced but very explosive. They knew exactly once you make that statement, whether you're trying to add nuance to the statement or not, you know exactly what's going to happen when you make that charge, whether it's elements

or how nuanced they're trying to be.

CAPEHART: So then-

VANDEHEI: Especially - this is a terrible issue to be talking about.

CAPEHART: But then we can-

VANDEHEI: And it's the reason that Barack Obama does not want to talk about it. Barack Obama has tried very-

CAPEHART: But then we can never have a conversation about race if - I mean, you have - it's all about nuance.

VANDEHEI: I feel like we've been having a conversation p about race for a long, long time in this country-

CAPEHART: We always will.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.