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Tea Party infighting heats up

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Tea Party fallout after race controversy
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Tea Party Express dismisses a Tea Party Federation move to expel the Express
  • Tea Party Express spokesman Joe Wierzbicki calls the Federation absurd
  • The Federation acted after the Express leader posted racially explosive sentiments online
  • The NAACP has called on Tea Party leaders to denounce racism in the movement

(CNN) -- Political bickering within the conservative Tea Party movement intensified Monday as a representative of one group, the Tea Party Express, ridiculed a decision by another, the National Tea Party Federation, to expel the Express from its ranks.

The Express has been under fire since one of its organizers, conservative talk radio host Mark Williams, wrote an incendiary blog post last week in response to an NAACP resolution calling on Tea Party leaders to crack down on racist elements in the movement. The post was a fictional letter from what Williams called "Colored People" to President Abraham Lincoln.

On Sunday, Federation spokesman David Webb announced that "in the last 24 hours, [we] have expelled Tea Party Express and Mark Williams from the National Tea Party Federation" because of the blog post.

"He doesn't represent us properly," Webb told CNN Monday. He's an "embarrassment."

Joe Wierzbicki, a spokesman for the Express, characterized the Federation on Monday as an "absurd" organization with no right to decide who can or cannot participate in a national grass-roots movement.

Video: NAACP responds to Tea Party expulsion
Video: Last 'Partier' booted?
Video: Racist elements in Tea Party?
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"The Tea Party Express with over 400,000 members is by far larger than the Tea Party Federation's entire membership," Wierzbicki said. "Most rank-and-file tea party activists think we're talking about Star Trek when we try to explain who the 'Federation' is. Given the absurdity of the actions by the 'Federation,' this is quite fitting, since their conduct is alien to our membership."

Wierzbicki asserted that "groups trying to say who can or can't be 'expelled' from the tea party movement is arrogant and preposterous."

"Perhaps this explains why so many tea party groups have left the 'Federation' during the past few months," Wierzbicki said. "Whatever the reason, most tea party activists are focused on taking back their country and the upcoming 2010 elections and not silly power games being played by individuals such as those in the 'Federation.'"

Wierzbicki mocked the Federation for informing Express activists that they "can't participate in something called their 'basecamp' communication network, which makes us think that the individuals involved in the 'Federation' spend a bit too much time watching science fiction movies and cartoons."

He blasted the Federation for "enabling" and "empowering" the NAACP's "racist attacks on the tea party movement."

Williams said Sunday he is done discussing the controversy created by his attack on the NAACP, though he slammed Webb for turning the Tea Party movement into "a World Wrestling style personality conflict."

"There are internal political dramas amongst the various self-anointed tea party 'leaders,' and some of the minor players on the fringes see the Tea Party Express and Mark Williams as tickets to a booking on "Fact [sic] the Nation,'" he said.

Civil rights leaders have repeatedly expressed concern over various signs carried at Tea Party events and racial slurs reportedly shouted at black members of Congress during the heated debate over health care.

The fictional letter to Lincoln posted by Williams last week said, "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 went on to write that the Tea Party movement couldn't be racist because it opposed government bailouts for Wall Street banks and big corporations.

"Bailouts are just big money welfare and isn't that what we want all Coloreds to strive for?" the posting said. "What kind of racist would want to end big money welfare? What they need to do is start handing the bailouts directly to us coloreds!"

Williams has said the post was intended as satire. He took it down as criticism mounted.

Some political leaders interviewed on Sunday talk shows said the Tea Party movement itself isn't racist, but needs to distance itself from any elements that bring prejudice and bigotry to its events.

Webb predicted to CNN on Monday that his clash with Williams will soon be forgotten by voters. "This is not a split, so the gleeful left can put away the smiles," he said.

CNN's Tom Cohen, Alan Silverleib and Bob Costantini contributed to this report.

 
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