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'Tea party' federation severs ties with commentator over Lincoln blog post

Tea Party Express is also expelled because it refused to rebuke Mark Williams, who was responding to accusations by the NAACP that the conservative movement has racist elements.

July 19, 2010|By Peter Nicholas, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — With racism accusations roiling the conservative movement, the National Tea Party Federation said Sunday that it had ejected commentator Mark Williams over an incendiary blog post in which he wrote a fictitious letter to Abraham Lincoln.

The faux letter was written in the name of Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, in response to an NAACP resolution condemning "racist elements" within the "tea party" movement.

One passage of Williams' "letter" read: "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 is a spokesman for Tea Party Express, a Sacramento-based political action committee. Tea Party Express was a part of the federation, but it was expelled after refusing to banish Williams.

On CBS' "Face the Nation," federation spokesman David Webb said: "We, in the last 24 hours, have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation because of the letter that he wrote, which he, I guess, may have considered satire but which was clearly offensive."

In a subsequent interview, Webb said of Williams: "He's an embarrassment to the tea party movement. This is an act of self-policing within the federation."

The federation is a loose association of tea party activists created in April to help the movement amplify its call for smaller government. Its website explains the tempest involving Williams. Federation members held a conference call Friday and agreed to demand that Tea Party Express rebuke and expel Williams.

In a later conversation between the two organizations, Tea Party Express refused to take those steps, the federation said. So the federation severed ties with both Tea Party Express and Williams.

On his website, Williams took down the controversial blog post, replacing it with a note that said: "I have removed the parody letter you came here to read and urge you to fight those who seek to divide us by race, no matter the color of the racist. Our fight is against tyranny and for liberty and to see that this nation continues the lofty goal of equality for all set for us by our founders."

A later post by Williams says he will not discuss the controversy with the news media.

In the spring, former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke at two political rallies that were part of a Tea Party Express cross-country bus tour. One was in Boston; the other in Searchlight, Nev., hometown of Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

Vice President Joe Biden, appearing on ABC's "This Week," weighed in on accusations of racism within the tea party.

Asked whether he believed the tea party is home to racists, he said certain members had "expressed really unfortunate comments."

But Biden added that neither he nor President Obama believed "that the tea party is a racist organization.... Very conservative. Very different views on government and a whole lot of things. But it is not a racist organization."

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