Politics

Because When Michael Steele Refuses To Return a Racist's Phone Calls, That's News!

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The Washington Post on Saturday did one of those whither-the-GOP/Tea-Party-relationship stories we've been seeing so many of since the Scott Brown election convinced basically everybody except Olbermannesque diehards that the Tea-Party-tendency=racism formula maybe wasn't the most helpful shorthand for understanding an interesting political story. But as Mother Jones' Stephanie Mencimer points out, there was only one Tea Party person quoted in the Post story, TeaParty.org owner Dale Robertson. And Robertson is problematic as a spokesman.

Robertson serves as the face of the "distrust" that the Post tries to portray in the piece. [Philip] Rucker writes, "Robertson said he has reached out repeatedly to [RNC chairman Michael] Steele but has been rebuffed. 'He hasn't called me back,' Robertson said. 'I find that disconcerting.'"

Is this the face of Tea Party nation?

Also disconcerting is that the Post published that quote with a straight face. If the paper had bothered to assign someone to cover the burgeoning Tea Party movement, its editors would have known that Robertson doesn't actually represent anyone, except maybe himself. Nor is this the first time Robertson has complained to a gullible reporter that the GOP is ignoring him. But the Post should have known that Michael Steele, a black man, isn't likely to return the calls of a guy who just last week sent out a fundraising appeal featuring a photo of Obama dressed as a pimp.

Not convinced yet that the Post should have at least provided some context on Robertson's complaint about Steele's nonresponsiveness? Then consider this: Last year, Robertson was asked to leave a Houston Tea Party for carrying a sign comparing taxpayers to "niggars."

Like many of the media hounds claiming to represent the grassroots Tea Party movement, Robertson's main credential is opportunism. […] While real Tea Party leaders have distanced themselves from Robertson, the media have embraced him and his false claim that he founded the entire Tea Party movement. Despite efforts by Tea Party leaders to publicize Robertson's phony creds and racist sign-making habits, Robertson has appeared on Fox News, C-Span, Russia Today, as well as a host of radio shows, and he's been quoted with authority in a variety of newspapers. The Washington Post quote, though, is definitely a coup for Roberston, and a true embarrassment for the Post, which really should have known better.

Whole Mother Jones bit here. Hat tip to the indefatigable Bruce Majors.

For a piece on the Tea Party movement whose reporting overcomes authorial slant, I'd recommend Ben McGrath's in The New Yorker.