The one Democratic member of Congress endorsed by the Tea Party Express formally rejected the endorsement on Monday, citing disgust with a satirical, racist letter penned by a spokesman for the group.
Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho) announced his rejection of the endorsement in a letter to the co-chair of the Tea Party Express on Monday -- roughly three months to the date after he became the sole Democrat to earn the group's backing. The congressman cited a fake letter (since removed from the web) that Tea Party Express spokesman Mark Williams wrote pretending to be a "Colored" person denouncing Abraham Lincoln for offering welfare to slaves.
The reprehensible blog post by your spokesman was clearly in poor taste. Whatever his reasons for writing it, his words reflect on all of those associated with the Tea Party movement. The proper response to his perceived slight on the issue of race was not to use inflammatory sarcasm. Rather, I would have expected your organization to instead highlight the Tea Party I know, the one with good, decent folks who care very much about the serious financial issues facing our nation and who themselves would find Mr. Williams' blog post distasteful.
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.
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.
The Tea Party Federation has since expelled Williams from the movement. But, as Minnick notes, the Tea Party Express failed to rebuke the man who is very much the face and voice of their subset group. Williams actually was on hand during the April 15 Tea Party Express event in Washington D.C. to announce the group's endorsement of Minnick. The Idaho Democrat was the sole non-Republican to earn the group's backing (a somewhat feeble way to prove that the movement was bipartisan in nature) and his office reluctantly accepted -- though 'declined-to-reject' may be the more operative description.
"It was a complete surprise," John Foster, a spokesman for the Congressman said at the time. "Being on a list with [lightning rod conservatives] Joe Wilson and Michele Bachmann is not something we are embracing," Foster added. "But we do appreciate that they recognize Walt's firm stance on fiscal accountability."
Minnick is a conservative-leaning Democrat who voted against the president's stimulus package, cap-and-trade legislation and health care reform. A member of the House's Blue Dog coalition, he was one of the few Democratic members for whom a Tea Party endorsement seemed to be philosophically reconcilable. But even he apparently is uncomfortable with the association, as his letter (pasted below) shows.