By KATE ZERNIKE
The nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization declared in a report released Wednesday that the Tea Party was “permeated with concerns about race,” an assessment that is likely to reignite a feud between the two groups.
The report 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,” argues the report, called Tea Party Nationalism.
Written by Leonard Ziskind, who has written extensively on white nationalism, the report looks at what it calls six nationwide Tea Party networks at the core of the movement. It says that leaders of all but one — FreedomWorks, a libertarian group in Washington headed by Dick Armey, a former House majority leader – have raised questions about President Obama’s birth certificate or have ties to white supremacist groups.
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 others. The core of the movement 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.’s president, Benjamin Todd Jealous, notes that the vast majority of Tea Party supporters “are sincere, principled people of good will.”
But the N.A.A.C.P. 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 in March, during a rally against health care legislation on Capitol Hill. And 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 N.A.A.C.P. passed a similar resolution seeking such a repudiation at its convention in July. Tea Party leaders reacted angrily, saying that there was no proof that the incidents outside the Capitol had occurred. And they have long said that they do not harbor racists.
Still, the N.A.A.C.P. report notes that slowly, Tea Party leaders have expelled leaders accused of making racist remarks – a move it calls “welcome first steps.”
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