Cracks in the ‘Tea’ pot

JULY 20, 2010


As a largely leaderless organization, the anti-tax Tea Party movement experienced a brouhaha this week from within, demonstrating there are struggles and turf battles between competing Tea Party groups.

Billed as a “vile, disgusting racist” by one critic, Mark Williams was expelled from one Tea Party faction, the Tea Party Federation, this week. Williams, who is spokesman for the alternative Tea Party Express, addressed critics in a CalWatchdog interview.

Williams was kicked out of the National Tea Party Federation by federation leader David Webb this week for writing a satirical letter (to Abraham Lincoln) on his blog, referring to NAACP members as “colored.” Yet Williams said he was not even a member of the federation, which further highlights the decentralized nature of this political movement.

After the NAACP passed a resolution last week condemning the “racism” of the Tea Party movement, and demanding that the movement purge itself of “racists” in their midst, Williams posted on his Web site, the letter that got him kicked out of the federation, which included this paragraph:

“We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don’t cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!”

Williams removed the letter from his blog, but a copy was posted at blog The Political Cesspool: Mark Williams’ Letter to Abe Lincoln from The Coloreds. In the interview with Williams Monday, he said he had pulled his “inflammatory and over-the-top criticism” of the NAACP from his blog, after NAACP chief Ben Jealous’ expressed desire to open talks with Tea Partiers.

Even before the brouhaha this week, appearing as the official Tea Party Express representative on the Geraldo Rivera show last weekend, Williams met with members of the NAACP, the National Urban League and activist Al Sharpton, to discuss the increasing level of rancor along racial lines.

Williams said that by the end of the discussion, everyone agreed to tone it down a notch, and especially denounce “extremists” who attempt to latch onto the respective movements. Williams said they all agreed it was time to move forward and stop the race-baiting.

Williams said there is more going on than meets the eye, and it’s not just about race. A power struggle has been brewing within the competing Tea Parties by individuals seeking financial gain. According to Williams, these people have been capitalizing on Republican causes for years as operatives.

Williams’ outspoken adversary, Tea Party Patriots’ Mark Meckler, was interviewed by Sacramento talk radio show host Eric Hogue on Monday, and called Williams a racist numerous times during the show. Williams calls Meckler a “muckraker” who has turned the Tea Party into the “Mark Meckler show,” and benefits financially. Williams said he receives no money from the Tea Party Express, nor was he ever a member of the Tea Party Federation, the group that “expelled” him.

Confirming there is a riff brewing in the Tea Party movement, Mark Meckler responded: “The issue is that Mark Williams is a vile, despicable racist and has been for a long time.” Meckler said that he would talk at another time about whether he makes money from the Tea Party movement, but that the only issue to discuss right now is Williams’ racism. “I’m not going to allow Williams to change the subject,” Meckler added. “Williams is trying to lift himself up in prominence using the Tea Party, and I’m not going to allow him to ruin a very important movement,” said Meckler.

According to Williams, the actual Tea Party Express founder and Chairwoman Amy Kremer, is being sued by Meckler for using the “Tea Party” name.  Meckler would not comment on the lawsuit.

Williams said the federation is capitalizing on the groundswell of Tea Party popularity, and it is ironic that the federation is attacking him, as the federation was created to send out factual responses to smears and attacks such as the one he is now experiencing.

Williams said the federation has instead tried to regulate Tea Party “dogma,” and direct what individual Tea Partiers are allowed to do and say. Williams stressed that there is not a “Tea Party,” rather there are thousands of Tea Party groups. “The very crux of the Tea Party movement is to get away from the people who lead the political parties,” Williams said. Williams said his satirical letter was over the top and in bad taste, but the issue was resolved between he and the people to whom the letter was directed.

Williams said the motive of the expulsion was more about “internal political dramas amongst the various self-anointed Tea Party leaders,” and that some of the minor players on the fringes “see the Tea Party Express and Mark Williams as tickets to a booking on Face the Nation.”

Asked why he feels he’s being targeted and called a racist, Williams said,  “Groups like the NAACP have traditionally been race-baiters.” He admits that his blog post was inflammatory, but said was “mocking the ideology of rhetoric.” “Fools like Webb and the NAACP put everyone at each others’ throats over ideology,” said Williams.

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