Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) used an image of a burning cross in an email slamming the tea party, comparing groups involved in the movement to the Ku Klux Klan.
Grayson first made the comparison between the tea party and the KKK in an interview with MSNBC's Al Sharpton on Oct. 17.
"They want their money back and they want the tea party out of their lives," Grayson said. "At this point, the tea party is no more popular than the Klan."
See an image of the email below, via Dave Levinthal:
Jennifer Burke, National Outreach Director of TheTeaParty.net, said "there's nothing more offensive" than the comparison.
"As a black Tea Party activist, I could say that there's nothing more offensive than equating the Tea Party with the Ku Klux Klan," Burke said in a statement. "The hate speech uttered by sitting congressman Alan Grayson is deplorable, even by the low levels reached in recent years when Democrats routinely call us racists and suicide bombers."
UPDATE -- 3:06 p.m.: Grayson is standing by his comparison.
"[T]here is overwhelming evidence that the Tea Party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation," he said in a statement provided to HuffPost. "If the hood fits, wear it."
Grayson's comparison is not novel. Professors Matt Barretto and Christopher Parker, in their book "Tea Party, Change They Can't Believe In," published by Princeton University Press, make a similar case. "The authors argue that this isn't the first time a segment of American society has perceived the American way of life as under siege," the book's blurb reads. "In fact, movements of this kind often appear when some individuals believe that 'American' values are under threat by rapid social changes. Drawing connections between the Tea Party and right-wing reactionary movements of the past, including the Know-Nothing Party, the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s, and the John Birch Society, Parker and Barreto develop a framework that transcends the Tea Party to shed light on its current and future consequences.