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For the second time in a month, the cable news network, CNN, announced that they would be teaming up with the Tea Party Express. In a move unprecedented in TV news history, CNN is giving live coverage to the Tea Party response to president Obama’s State of the Union address, on top of the Republican response. This follows the controversial decision by CNN to partner with the Tea Party Express to host a Republican presidential debate in the fall. No other news network will be giving Bachmann live coverage.

This contentious first step took place when Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), head of the Tea Party Caucus, joined with the Tea Party Express to announce that she would give a Tea Party response to the State of the Union address. These remarks are in addition to the usual opposition party response, being given this year by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). News networks have never before provided such a platform.  Not even Fox News plans to air Bachmann’s speech live.

Bachmann’s remarks were only going to be carried on the Tea Party Express website, but CNN jumped at the opportunity to give the Tea Party more airtime. CNN told the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, “The Tea Party has become a major force in American politics and within the Republican Party. Hearing the Tea Party’s perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN’s viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight’s coverage.”

The statement is remarkably similar in tone to the comment the network gave in December when  CNN announced that it was joining forces with the Tea Party Express to co-host a Republican presidential debate. Rationalizing his decision, CNN Political Director, Sam Feist, said, “The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country’s political landscape.”

“Diverse?” Hardly. As we examined in the Special Report, Tea Party Nationalism, Tea Party Express is the outfit that even the other Tea Party groups find too racist to work with them.

Its past chairman, Mark Williams, repeatedly crossed the line from civil political discourse into vicious rants and explicit racism. As documented, Williams has referred to President Obama as a Nazi, a half-white racist, a half-black racist and an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare fraud. After racist comments towards the NAACP last summer, Williams was forced to step aside.

Williams was replaced by TPE Director of Grassroots & Coalitions, Amy Kremer.  But just like Williams, Kremer has a problem with racism. Like Williams, Kremer is a birther. Her blog, “Southern Belle Politics,” is filled with calumny for the president, including repetition of the (false) charge that he is not a natural born American. She’s also gone out of her way to defend a fellow Tea Partier after he sent out racist emails depicting president Obama as a witch doctor.

The ongoing problems of the Tea Party Express with racism should be more than enough to exclude the group from getting the CNN stamp of approval.

And “grassroots?” Not so much. The Tea Party Express is far from being a group of grassroots activists. It’s a political action committee created by longtime California GOP political consulting firm with a serious conflict of interest when it comes to the 2012 presidential debates.

After the 2008 election, they paid for flattering advertisements for Sarah Palin, “thanking her for her service.” The PAC founders hoped the ads would encourage Palin to run for President.  Palin returned the favor by headlining several Tea Party Express tour events.  Given that Palin is a likely participant in this debate, Tea Party Express can hardly be considered a fair or impartial host for such an important political event.

In March – April 2010, CNN was the only news outlet to embed reporters with the Tea Party Express on its second national bus tour, which featured Sarah Palin in Nevada and Massachusetts.

Absent an outpouring of condemnation by viewers, expect CNN to continue to provide a platform for the Tea Party Express and don’t be surprised if they continue to defend the Tea Parties against the mounting evidence of bigotry and racism in Tea Party ranks.

Devin Burghart is vice president of the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights.


Devin Burghart

Author Devin Burghart

is vice president of IREHR. He coordinates our Seattle office, directs our research efforts, and manages our online communications. He has researched, written, and organized on virtually all facets of contemporary white nationalism since 1992, and is internationally recognized for this effort. Devin is frequently quoted as an expert by print, broadcast, and online media outlets. In 2007, he was awarded a Petra Foundation fellowship. more...

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