MIAMI, Fla. — Are the Tea Parties racist organizations? No, said three African-American panelists presented with that question at the third and final day of the “Taking America Back” conference here on Saturday.
But given the fact that the conference was organized by the far-right World Net Daily (WND) and two of the panelists work for the online organization, their verdict was about as surprising as balmy nights and swaying palms on a South Florida summer night. Still, it reflected the anger and resentment that many conservatives have felt over the characterization of the populist Tea Parties as racist.
Many liberals and reporters have pointed out various signs of anti-black racism within the movement, which took root after Barack Obama was elected the nation’s first black president in late 2008. The NAACP brought that criticism to a new level this July, when it passed a resolution asking Tea Party leaders to repudiate followers who use racist language and symbols. The movement was set back on its heels again a few days later, when Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, was expelled along with his group from the National Tea Party Federation after he wrote a satirical letter in which he called slavery as “great gig.” Earlier, Dale Robertson, leader of TeaParty.org, wrote an arguably racist E-mail to his followers.
The World Net Daily crowd stands considerably to the right of most Tea Party followers, and it is overwhelmingly white. But the WNDers feel the Tea Parties’ pain, and so the conference offered up what black speakers it had to take on the allegations of racism. They included Erik Rush, a WND columnist; Albert Thompson, executive assistant to Elizabeth Farah, who started WND with her husband Joseph; and Alan Keyes, an ultraconservative activist and oft-times candidate who has called President Obama “a radical communist.”
“There are a few racists in there. In any group, you’re going to find a few people of low character,” Rush said. But, for most in the movement, Rush said, “This has never been about Barack Obama. It’s certainly not about his skin color.”
He spoke to an audience of some 70 people. One of them was black.
For Thompson, the Tea Parties arose out of concern about illegal immigration and fears that Obama would push amnesty on a large scale. “It’s about a fundamental transformation without their consent,” he said. Keyes had a slightly different take, saying that Obama’s Marxism is what sparked the movement. He said Tea Partiers should ignore those who claim there are racists among them. “Let them take their phony standards to whatever form of perdition they choose,” he said.
Earlier on Saturday, conference attendees were entertained by Rusty Humphries, a nationally syndicated talk-radio personality. He sang ditties such as “Thank Allah I’m a Jihad Boy,” to the tune of John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” and “Everybody’s Sneakin’ into the USA,” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA.” “I’m so sick and tired of being called a racist,” Humphries said to applause. He then suggested that perhaps Mexicans coming into the United States could at least learn Americans customs and the English language and “maybe have $10 in your pocket.” He also implied that Mexican immigrants are mooches.
And then it was back to simple attacks on Obama and his administration, the mainstay theme of the entire “Taking America Back” conference. Humphries complained of the “radical, socialist regime in power” that has created the “United Socialist States of America.” WND Managing Editor David Kupelian said Obama is a Marxist whose advisors are “clinically insane” and added that the Department of Education is filled with “atheistic, progressive, socialistic wackos.” Kupelian — who has the countenance of an undertaker, but acted a good deal gloomier — also had bitter words for most anybody with leftist leanings. “The hard left — they hate God; they hate normalcy.” The Tea Party movement wants an Ozzie and Harriet America, he continued. But “the left sees Ku Klux Klan everywhere.”
Out of more than two dozen speakers at the “Taking America Back” conference, only two were women. (U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Minnesota Republican, was a late scratch but did deliver a videotaped message.) One of them, Judith Reisman, maintained that the reports of the late sex researcher Alfred Kinsey changed America’s core values and laws in terrible ways with flawed studies. (Kinsey was the first public figure to suggest that very large numbers of Americans were homosexual or had had same-sex experiences; most researchers today do believe his estimates of the prevalence of homosexuality were high.) Among other things, she called Kinsey — who died 54 years ago — a “psychopath” and a “dirty old man.” She said many of his conclusions were “a massive lie” and that she hopes to push for a grand jury or congressional investigation next year of the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, as well as a class-action suit.
And then there was Victoria Jackson, best known as part of the ensemble cast of “Saturday Night Live” from 1986 to 1992. Now 51 and a self-described Tea Party member, she performed a tune, “There’s a Communist Living in the White House” on Friday night, and followed that up on Saturday evening with another ditty in which she again called Obama a communist.
Jackson’s political awakening is apparently a fairly new thing — she said she didn’t vote for the first time until she was in her 40s. But now she’s fully engaged and has a thing or two to tell the world: Evolution is wrong, the media is biased, her generation was brainwashed, and the president is a communist. Progressives, socialists, communists — they’re “all the same,” Jackson said.
The audience loved her.