WASHINGTON -- Tea party and Republican leaders have been quick to condemn Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) for his recent comparison of the tea party and the Ku Klux Klan. But avowed racists involved in the white nationalist movement might beg to agree with the Florida Democrat.
The KKK, for its part, isn't sure whether the hood fits. "The tea party is a very widespread organization and there's many tea party groups in the country, so I don't know if they are necessarily even in agreement with each other," pastor Thomas Robb, national director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, told HuffPost. "Likewise, The Klan, people use the phrase Klan who are not associated with us ... that I would be 100 percent opposed to."
"It's hard to come up with a name of a group and say well how do they compare with another group," he added. "That's like asking First Baptist Church in Dallas whether they agree with the Methodist church in Birmingham, or even a Baptist church in Birmingham. So it's very difficult to say how we compare with the tea party."
But the conversation continues beyond even the Klan itself, and insight into how openly racist people view the tea party can be gleaned from a long-running debate among white supremacists at the website Stormfront.org.
Stormfront -- whose motto is "White Pride World Wide" -- is among the most popular white nationalist (WN, in the community's lexicon) gathering spots online, and discussion of the tea party is a regular part of the chatter. One thread, started in 2011 and still active recently, debates just how racist the tea party is. In the evil, upside-down world of white supremacy, the label of racist is meant as a compliment and, to many Stormfront posters, the tea party earns high marks.
The thread can be read here, but the debate breaks down into roughly two camps, one arguing that the tea party is a dead end for white nationalists and the other side arguing that many in the tea party already have racist attitudes and present an opportunity for white nationalists to ply their message. The only area of agreement seemed to be that the tea party loses its way in its strong support of Israel, which the neo-Nazi Stormfront crowd does not appreciate.
Grayson has stood by his comparison. "If the hood fits, wear it," he said. "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.'"
Many of the racists participating in the Stormfront discussion say they themselves are either tea party members or have attended multiple tea party meetings. But, to be sure, the tea party has quite literally millions of supporters and many, many of those people are not remotely racist, as the racists on Stormfront readily lament. And even the examples of racist language and signage at tea party rallies pales in comparison to the domestic terrorism carried out by the KKK -- cross-burning, beatings, lynchings, bombings, murder.
Yet, the Stormfront conversations show that the perception of the tea party as having a racist element is not merely held by Grayson or Rev. Al Sharpton, but is a view shared by the kind of people who would know. The comments below are copied from Stormfront and were made by people the site lists as having been longstanding members who have posted hundreds, and in most cases thousands, of times on the site, making it unlikely that they are liberal plants trying to make the tea party look bad. Quite the opposite: Many of the Neo Nazis below rushed to the tea party's defense when other white nationalists accused its members of being insufficiently racist.
Stormfront poster SSVicious argued that tea partiers should not be written off because many are knee-jerk racist toward darker-skinned people, but are not sophisticated enough in their racial analysis to be sufficiently anti-Semitic. It's a start, SSVicious said.
"They are realistic about certain things...i.e. that blacks are more prone to be criminals, less intelligent, etc.....But if you bring up Israel... oh my, you might as well be a Muslim extremist (the thing that Tea Partiers hate the most)," said SSVicious, with the ellipses in the original. "A lot of them are those kinds of people we like and dislike at the same time... They know racial differences that are in their face, yet they aren't smart enough or haven't had the chance yet to connect the dots that lead to a certain group of people (the Jews)."
Culturalist put it more succinctly. "They care about race but may not be sympathetic to the neo Nazi, Jew hater side of WN," the poster said.
In 2011, when Grayson called the tea party "callous, bigoted tools," a Stormfronter expressed surprise. "What the *beep*?? This is coming from the same guy who grilled Ben Bernanke," said Sieben Elf, referring to Grayson's viral demolition of the Federal Reserve chairman, who runs an organization many white nationalists believe is controlled by a Jewish cabal.
"Grayson's Der Jude," Sieben Elf wrote in a follow-up post by way of explanation. "Funny, he doesn't look Jewish."
In response to one Stormfronter lamenting that the tea party is not sufficiently racist, a poster who goes by the handle "true believer" argues: "Well if you eliminated everyone who didn't fit perfectly into your ideal candidate you would be so marginalized that you couldn't get anyone in. I mean we all lost our calling by time and place when we weren't in the Fatherland in 1938," true believer wrote, referring to Nazi Germany. "Perhaps you would just let the commie Democrats continue to run the show under there leader the alien commie Muslim Obama. Lighten up here to get success you have to make small steps at first. Let's see if we can all just get along with our natural allies here. May Adolf be with you."
Another poster, Mike212311 noted that the "Taxed Enough Already movement may not be wholly WN, however there is plenty of racial awareness out there. That's where it begins; with awareness."
Many others suggested working closely with a local tea party chapter, and shared stories of doing so themselves. "I've joined so far three local Tea Party Groups locally and have been encouraging all my employees and friends and relatives to do the same. We have been very successful," one said. '[F]rankly it's been working like a charm for well over two years. These people have money, time and a hell of a lot of local influence and most aren't afraid to use it-all they need is a little encouragement, direction and leadership."
Strelnikov bragged, "got about half the people to applaude my attack on legal immigration this week. Our t-party is middle class. These people don't look rich. After the meeting they practically swarmed my table to pick up free 'Take Back America!!!' bumper stickers. I'm getting other stuff in their hands too. Our meetings appear to be 100% white in a county that is 65% white."
For BloddRaven, the question of whether racists were involved with the tea party was a silly one.
"What a ridicules thread," the poster observed. "Saying Tea partyiers aren't WNists is like saying Ron Paul supports aren't WNists. While it's true not all are, it's also true many are."