Bishop E. W. Jackson, founder of the social conservative group STAND, appeared on MSNBC today to defend the tea party against the NAACP condemnation of “racist elements” within the movement. “I don’t think there is any question whatsoever that the NAACP should be ashamed of themselves. They are wrong,” Jackson — himself an African-American — said of the charges.
But host Chris Jansing, citing ThinkProgress, presented Jackson with clear evidence to the contrary, quoting from Tea Party Express spokesperson Mark Williams’ litany of bigoted comments. Jackson refused to condemn Williams, and instead attempted to downplay Williams’ importance and the hatefulness of his comments. “People will sometimes say things that some of us won’t agree with,” he said:
JANSING: Well, according to ThinkProgress, a former Tea Party Express chairman, Mark Williams called President Obama, quote, “an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.” He also called the Muslim god Allah, quote, “a terrorists’ monkey god.” Are you comfortable with that?
JACKSON: Well, first of all, nobody speaks for me. And if you ask me, am I comfortable with everything that Al Sharpton said, or Jesse Jackson said, or any black conservative said, you’d probably find things I’d say, nah, that doesn’t represent me. I’m a Republican. I don’t agree with everything Michael Steele says. So, look, we understand that the tea party is a broad movement and people will sometimes say things that some of us won’t disagree with — will disagree with. But the idea that the tea party movement is racist or that it has racist elements that need to be denounced is a nonsensical statement.
As Williams’ hateful comments demonstrate, it’s clearly not “nonsensical” to say there are racist elements within the tea party movement. And while it’s one thing for rank-and-file activists, or even minor leaders to express bigotry, Williams is one of the tea party’s most prominent leaders, appearing on TV many times over the past year and a half to represent the movement.
Tea Party Express — one of the most important tea party groups — has paid Williams over $20,000, and allowed him to lead the organization as its chairman, giving him “day-to-day managerial responsibilities.” Williams was the face of the group’s big Tax Day press conference in April, when it introduced the world to “the event’s star,” then-unknown Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle.
Williams remains the group’s principle spokesperson, and only stepped down as chairman to lead a crusade against the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero. Other Tea Party Express members have refused to condemn Williams’ bigotry, and said his “monkey god” comments “played no role in his change in status within the Tea Party Express.”
Williams is exactly the type of racist element that the the NAACP challenged tea party activists to expel and condemn, “or take full responsibility for all of their actions.” The NAACP did not accuse the entire tea party movement of racism, despite attempts by Jackson and other conservatives to construct that straw man. Jackson, Tea Party Express, and other conservatives should condemn Williams’ unvarnished bigotry in the strongest possible terms if they want to prove the NAACP wrong — or their cowardice to do so could turn their straw man into a reality.