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Minnick rejects support of Tea Party Express over racial letter

Minnick rejects support of Tea Party Express over racial letter

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
July 19, 2010

The Tea Party Express, one of the national voices of the Tea Party movement, created some political shockwaves when it endorsed Democrat Walt Minnick for re-election earlier this year, the only Democrat the group threw its support behind.  Now the group is coming under fire for racial content in a recent fictional letter penned by its spokesman.  The man responsible for the letter says it was meant to provoke discussion after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) condemned elements of the Tea Party movement as racist.  Minnick sent a letter Monday condemning the Tea Party Express for its failure to rebuke the man behind the letter and declined the support from the group.

Mark Williams is the spokesman for the group and the man who wrote the letter.  He slammed the NAACP for its condemnation of Tea Party followers, and said that NAACP leaders were simply stirring up racial tensions in the country.  The fictional letter, which has since been removed from the Tea Party Express's website, was written to President Abraham Lincoln from what Williams called "Colored People."  Here is some of the content of the letter:

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

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!

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

As a result of the writings and the group’s failure to rebuke its spokesman, the Tea Party Express has been thrown out of the national Tea Party Federation, a collection of the anti-big government groups across the nation, which boasts 61 members.  Minnick, in response to inquiries by IdahoReporter.com and in a letter to a regional representative of the group, said that while some of the elements of the Tea Party Express are passionate about the future of the country, the letter by Williams was in very poor taste.  "That's one reason why my interaction with the grassroots Tea Party movement here in Idaho has been very positive. I find the vast majority of their members to be cordial, polite and sincere. While they disagree strongly with the president and his policies, their passions tend to be focused on issues and not on personalities,” said Minnick.  “Of course, in any movement there are those who take things too far and say or do hateful, hurtful things which harm the cause of the entire group.  However, those who rise to or claim leadership in those movements have an obligation to lead with a respect for the movement and its members, and thus be responsible with words and actions."

In the end, Minnick said, he didn't want to be associated with the group if it wouldn't rebuke Williams. "Instead, the Tea Party Express has apparently decided to stand by Mr. Williams and support him in his own contention that he did nothing wrong. I cannot agree with that course of action. Since the Tea Party Express refuses to reject and rebuke Mr. Williams, I have no choice but to decline your endorsement,” Minnick wrote. "I thank you very sincerely for your kind words about my work as a Congressman, and hope that your group can see the error of its ways."

(Click here to see the full text of Minnick's letter: Tea Party Express Letter)

It seemed Minnick was never entirely comfortable with the endorsement in the first place.  He reluctantly accepted the original endorsement, saying that it was a show of his broad base of support.  John Foster, campaign spokesman for Minnick, said at the time of the initial announcement by the Tea Party Express, that he appreciated the group noticing Minnick's fiscal responsibility, but that he wasn't thrilled to be lumped in with the like of Reps. Michele Bachmann or Joe Wilson, referred to by some pundits as conservative lightning rods.

Minnick’s opponent, Republican Raul Labrador, said that though the actions by Williams were wrong, people should be slow to condemn all Tea Party-goers.  “As someone who has experienced racism, I condemn the statement of this one individual,” said Labrador, who was born in Puerto Rico.  “But I have met many people of different ethnic backgrounds at Tea Party events and I don’t think the actions of this one person should paint a picture of the rest of the individuals in the movement.”  Labrador also received support from a Tea Party group earlier this year, but on a more local level.  Tea Party Boise, Inc., representing anti-big government advocates in the Treasure Valley, endorsed Labrador in his primary election dual with Vaughn Ward.  The group tapped Labrador because of his political experience in the Idaho Legislature, where he served as a lawmaker for two terms.

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