The National Tea Party Federation — a national coalition of tea party groups formed in April — has expelled Tea Party Express (TPE) over a racially-tinged blog post written by its former chairman and current spokesperson, Mark Williams. The post, which he maintains was satirical, repeatedly referred to “colored people” and called slavery a “great gig.” Williams has a long history of bigotry, and has been one of most prominent defenders of the tea party in the wake of a resolution adopted by the NAACP last week calling out “racist elements” within the movement.
The federation demanded that Williams “be officially removed from the ranks of the Tea Party Express” in a public manner, or face expulsion from the national umbrella organization. TPE has repeatedly refused to rebuke Williams’ bigotry in the past, and protected Williams once again, even in the face of expulsion from their comrades. A TPE “leader’s response was clear: they have no intention of taking the action we required for their group to continue as a member of the National Tea Party Federation,” a Federation press release announced.
“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,” said federation spokesman David Webb Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”
“And that is what we do. Self-policing is the right and the responsibility of any movement or organization,” he added.
In a defiant blog post, Williams fired back directly at Webb, writing that he “was [a] careless individual tea partier who assumed the mantel of ‘leadership,'” and that “Mr. Webb speaks only for” himself. But in a press release, the federation said the decision had been reached “unanimously” during an “‘All Hands’ conference call.” Williams also tried to downplay the federation’s stature, suggesting they were a “minor player on the fringes.” But later in the post, he readily admits that the umbrella group does the “bulk of the lobbying and organizing of tea party events for around 40” other tea party groups, and that Tea Party Express was “among the original signers and the intent was that we would act as a central clearing house.”
While Tea Party Express continues to tolerate Williams’ bigotry, the leading tea party group did apparently demote him — on their website. Williams stepped down as chairman of the group in June in order to devote himself to stopping the construction of a mosque in New York City, but until last week, he was still listed as “chairman” online. Now he is listed as “spokesperson.”
In rebuking Williams, the federation is doing exactly what the NAACP called on tea party leaders to do — condemn any racist elements within the movement to show the tea party is as inclusive as it claims to be. The federation’s action in expelling Tea Party Express is welcome, but should not stop with Williams, as there are clearly other racist and bigoted elements trying to make inroads into the anti-tax movement.
Tea Party Express is a leading tea party group, backing dozens of high-profile candidates across the country. Will their candidates follow the federation’s lead and condemn Williams’s hate?
Tea Party Express coordinator Joe Wierzbicki responded by attacking the federation in statement released today, standing by Williams and blasting the umbrella group’s “silly power games” as “arrogant and preposterous.” “The ‘Federation’ has enabled and empowered the NAACP’s racist attacks on the tea party movement, and they should be ashamed of themselves,” Wierzbicki said. He also mocked the group and suggested they were irrelevant, saying, “Most rank-and-file tea party activists think we’re talking about Star Trek when we try to explain who the ‘Federation’ is.”
,Tea Party Nation — the group responsible for the National Tea Party Convention held earlier this year in Nashville — distanced itself from Williams, writing in a email to supporters, “Tea Party Nation and many other groups have repudiated racism and racists.”