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

Breitbart told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he posted the video in response to the NAACP ”tarring the American and the Tea Party movement with the false charge of racism” — as if he could ”prove” that the Tea Party wasn’t racist by falsely accusing Sherrod.

Even if Sherrod was a committed racist — she clearly isn’t — at best, Breitbart would have succeeded only in pointing out one individual racist in the NAACP. Unless he’s also saying that there’s not even one individual racist in the Tea Party — like, say, Mark Williams, who got thrown out of the Tea Party just last week for joking that freed black slaves didn’t ”cotton” to freedom — then he’s pushing a double standard.

His apparent thesis — NAACP equals black equals Democrats equals the enemy — betrays a bias of its own. It’s probably too much to assume he already knows that African Americans generally see the NAACP as a fairly stodgy, old-line advocacy group, led for 15 years by Benjamin Hooks, a Republican who was in the Nixon administration.

And unless I’m missing something, Breitbart’s ”I’m rubber; you’re glue” approach to the issue doesn’t show too much confidence in the appeal of what’s billed as the Tea Party’s core message: trimming federal waste and flattening out income taxes.

But Breitbart did exactly what the Tea Party complains has been done to them.

At its essence, the moral of the story Sherrod tried to tell in her speech is simple — it’s straight out of Broadway’s Avenue Q: ”Everyone’s a little bit racist … sometimes … ”:

In the long wind-up of her speech, Sherrod, whose father was killed by a white farmer when she was 17, talked about her client’s unwelcome ”superior” attitude, and how she initially wanted to pawn him off on ”one of his own.” It’s not PC, but it’s honest storytelling. What’s striking about the public — and the media’s — initial reaction to her speech is that it was so easily spun as a racist diatribe. Even if you hear only the edited clip, to conclude that she’s working up to an indictment of white people, you almost have to want it to be that way — we’re conditioned to look for racism in everything.

Sherrod’s story is really how it’s supposed to go. People confront their biases, and they evolve. As a group, the Tea Party hasn’t done that yet. I’m still prepared to believe Tea Partiers who say their anger at the government isn’t motivated by bigotry. If Breitbart wants to criticize the media’s ”poking and prodding at the racial hornet’s nest that was supposed to have been removed” after Obama’s election, that’s fair enough.

But he won’t win the Tea Party any points until he can admit that’s exactly what he did.

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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