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10/27/2010 11:48 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Stephen Colbert To Garry Wills: Is Tea Party Racist? (VIDEO)

When Stephen Colbert asked author Garry Wills if "the Tea Party is essentially a racist endeavor?" last night, Wills replied, "Well, of course."

Wills, historian and author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning book "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America," focuses his fiery new memoir on the observations he has made of various interesting world leaders, politicians and other characters. The book is called "Outside Looking In."

"Why 'outside looking in'? Why not inside, messing stuff up?" Colbert asked. "That's what the real actors of history do. You're a historian, but don't you want to be an agent of history?"

"No, I don't," Wills calmly replied.

"Why not?" Colbert said. "You're afraid someone will write a book about you?"

"Jim Fallows once asked me why I didn't join the Jimmy Carter campaign as he did. And I said, 'I'm an entomologist, which doesn't mean I have to become a bug."

"I like that," Colbert said. "I like that a lot."

Noting that Wills studied under the historian William F. Buckley, Colbert asked what "Buckley would make of the Tea Party?"

"He had a word he liked to use for people like that: Vulgarians," Wills said.

Colbert asked Wills to explain, noting that "they just want lower taxes, smaller government to preserve the constitution."

"They didn't say that, you notice, when George Bush was [in office] and all the same grievances were there," Wills said.

"But things changed when Bush left office," Colbert began to defend the Tea Party.

"They certainly did: we had a black President," Wills said. "That made all the difference."

"That is saying that the Tea Party is essentially a racist endeavor," Colbert said.

"Well, of course."

"Not of course," Colbert said surprised. "There are several people who are black who have been to tea parties."

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