Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) spoke out Wednesday against a fundraising email sent by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), expressing disappointment in the choice to signify the tea party with a burning cross.
“Obviously I am disappointed in the use of that imagery," Wasserman Schultz said in a statement obtained by Politico. "Both sides need to dial back that kind of rhetoric and look to bring more civility into politics."
Wasserman Schultz's comments came less than 24 hours after former Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) prodded Democratic leaders to condemn Grayson's tea party-Ku Klux Klan comparisons, calling it "degrading" to conservatives. West continued those calls on Wednesday, publishing a post on his website questioning where President Barack Obama's outrage was over the burning cross.
I just knew that Obama, so beloved by the black community would make a serious stand against the use of a symbol that represented voter intimidation and lynchings of blacks. I felt that President Obama, the champion of civility in political discourse, would schedule a press event today, or maybe even call tea party leaders, such as he did with Sandra Fluke and Jason Collins, to offer an apology and support. Then I woke up from the dream I was having.
On Tuesday, Grayson stood by his original remarks from last week, which charged that the tea party is no more popular than the Ku Klux Klan. He attributed that comparison to "relentless racist attacks against our African-American president."
"[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," Grayson said in a statement provided to HuffPost. "If the hood fits, wear it."
See Grayson's full statement below:
Regarding the image that the campaign circulated, the tea party has engaged in relentless racist attacks against our African-American President. For example, when the President visited my home of Orlando, tea party protesters shouted “Kenyan Go Home.” Other examples include tea party chants of “Bye Bye, Blackbird,” and tea party posters saying “Obama’s Plan: White Slavery,” “Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork” and “The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin’ African,” as well as this repulsive one, depicting the President of the United States as an African witch doctor with bananas in his hair:
Tea Party members also have persisted in falsely characterizing the President as Kenyan and Moslem, despite all evidence, in order to disparage him. Members of the tea party have circulated countless altered pictures depicting President Obama and the First Lady as monkeys. tea party members also called my fellow Member of Congress, civil rights hero John Lewis, a “n***ger,” and Rep. Barney Frank a “faggot.” More generally, the leader of the Texas tea party displayed a poster saying “Congress=Slave Owner, Taxpayer=Niggar [sic].” Tea party Members of Congress have referred to Hispanics as “wetbacks,” and having “cantaloupe-sized calves” from picking fruit. Tea party candidates, including my opponent in the last election, have endorsed forcing Hispanics to speak English. One could go on and on, because there 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. 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.