NAACP Watches for ‘Tea Party’ Racism, Stirs Controversy

Krissah Thompson, Washington Post, September 2, 2010

NAACP leaders have a message for the members of the tea party movement: We’re watching you.

The civil rights group has partnered with three liberal media Web sites to form a “tea party tracker” intent on monitoring “racism and other forms of extremism” within the tea party movement.

The online project, which was developed and branded by the NAACP’s new media staff, has already drawn strong criticism from tea party supporters, who have said repeatedly that racism plays no role in their movement.

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau, said the project was started because NAACP leaders kept hearing from its members that they were seeing racist signs, T-shirts and commentary coming from the tea party movement.

“The site is set up to be utilized as a tool to track activities as they come up,” Shelton said. “It is in some ways consistent with the kind of tracking that has been done of other extremist entities. I do not want to suggest that the tea party is a hate group, but there are some disturbing elements within.”

{snip}

Brendan Steinhauser, director of federal and state campaigns for Freedomworks–which supports many tea party groups–called the ongoing conversation about racism and the tea party frustrating.

Steinhauser said liberal groups don’t hold themselves to as strict a standard. For example, he said, at antiwar rallies during the Bush administration there were signs showing communist decals and supporting communist leaders Fidel Castro and Kim Jong Il.

“There’s such a different standard we’re held to,” Steinhauser said. {snip}

The tea party tracker site is aggregating stories from Think Progress, Media Matters for America and New Left Media–which all promote liberal ideas, while criticizing conservatives and Republicans.

{snip}

Faiz Shakir, editor in chief of Think Progress, said he was glad to support the NAACP’s site because he has already been sending staff members out to conduct interviews at tea party events. NAACP staffers will cull from that reporting for its site–along with any information that comes from the NAACP’s 2,200 chapters. {snip}

{snip}

So far the tracker site has posted links related to conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s “restoring honor” rally last weekend, including a picture of a man wearing a T-shirt that reads: “Blacks own Slaves in Mauritania, Sudan, Niger and Haiti.” NAACP has also posted a slideshow of photos it says are of offensive signs displayed at tea party rallies.

Steinhauser said his biggest concern about the tracker site is that “a lot of the signs that are going to end up on this site are going to be from left-wing groups infiltrating these rallies. It’s so clear that they are holding up signs to make us to look bad. It serves their purpose to do that.”

{snip}

[View the Tea Party Tracker’s Photostream here. Tea Party Tracker’s website is located here.]

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