Andrew Breitbart’s Tea Party Hypocrisy

Right-wing blogs don't help the Tea Party's cause by papering over their race issues. And in the process, they're turning off a lot of potential black voters. Like me.

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Congratulations, Andrew Breitbart. You might have just cost the Tea Party my vote.

Last week when I wrote ”How the Tea Party Could Get My Vote” for The Root, I said what should already be pretty obvious: There are plenty of African Americans who enjoy conservative talk radio, who bristle when paying their income taxes and who envy (sort of) the rollicking, ”No co-pay, no peace!” cri de coeur of Tea Party rallies.

Not too many black folks want to see a lady like Shirley Sherrod get railroaded.

You know the story. On Big Government, Breitbart published an excerpted 2009 video of Sherrod, a black USDA appointee, speaking to the NAACP. In the clip, Sherrod describes how, as a farmers’ rights advocate in 1986, she assisted — reluctantly at first — a white farmer facing foreclosure. Breitbart somehow took that as proof that ”the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus do not want racial harmony.”

But in the video of the full speech, it’s clear not only that Sherrod went on to help that farmer but that the speech was a testimony about coming to terms with her own prejudice, and gaining the perspective that it’s ”not so much about black and white.”

In the course of a week, Sherrod was called racist, resigned under pressure, was  vindicated, apologized to by White House staff — and offered a new job by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. If Breitbart’s goal was to tie Vilsack and the Obama administration up in knots, he can claim ”Mission Accomplished.”

But if he’s claiming the race-relations moral high ground for the Tea Party, he failed miserably.

Last week I rapped the NAACP for wasting valuable time on calling out Tea Party racism. But that doesn’t mean that I thought there wasn’t any racism in any of the varied Tea Party organizations. There’s too much ”birther” rhetoric out there — and way too many infamous Tea Party posters like the one depicting President Barack Obama as a ”witch doctor” with a bone in his nose.