Tea Party Express suspended over Mark Williams' 'Lincoln' letter

The Kansas City StarJuly 19, 2010 

Following a week of intense debate over alleged racist elements in the tea party, a national coalition of tea parties has expelled one of its groups for offensive comments.

The National Tea Party Federation, which comprises scores of tea parties across the country, announced Sunday that it has expelled the Tea Party Express and its spokesman after a racially charged blog post.

Federation spokesman David Webb, appearing on the CBS program "Face the Nation" Sunday, called the blog post "clearly offensive."

"Self-policing is the right and the responsibility of any movement or organization," Webb said on the program. "I denounce any acts that I see many leaders do."

The action came several days after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, meeting in Kansas City, sparked a national controversy by passing a resolution calling on all people — including tea party leaders — to condemn racism within the tea party movement.

Tea party leaders quickly responded that the movement was not racist, although some acknowledged there might be racist elements on the fringe.

Webb said again on the television program Sunday that it was "blatantly false" for the NAACP to suggest such elements represent millions of tea partiers.

NAACP President Ben Jealous, appearing on the same show, has said the tea party itself is not racist but told Webb "we have gotten death threats across the country since we asked you guys to expel these folks from your ranks."

On another Sunday show, ABC's "This Week," Vice President Joe Biden said that neither he nor President Barack Obama believes the tea party is a racist organization, but that some in the movement have expressed racist views.

The federation's action this weekend was prompted by a blog post Friday by Mark Williams, the most visible Tea Party Express representative.

Williams posted a fictional letter to President Abraham Lincoln from "Precious Ben Jealous, Tom's Nephew, NAACP head colored person."

The letter begins: "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 later removed the letter from his blog, saying he had learned that Jealous had offered "something of an olive branch and wants to open discussions with tea partiers regarding dialing down the unproductive shots going back and forth."

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