The Tea Party Express leader ousted after racially charged remarks about the NAACP is back with a new PAC. Will this complicate the movement’s bid to reboot its image?
Mark Williams, the bomb-throwing conservative talk show host who last month was ousted from the Tea Party movement after a rant against the NAACP that was widely condemned as racist, looks to be back.
The former Tea Party Express chairman is said to be teaming up with two fellow conservative activists to create Citizens for Constitutional Liberty, a new political action committee that plans to support conservative candidates and promote grassroots activism among Tea Partiers.
“We want to get back to the basics where this all started,” Stanhope said. “Educating, advocating and uniting, to promote conservative candidates,” especially at the local level.
Rodney Stanhope, one of the group’s founders, told The Daily Beast that he and another northern California Tea Party activist, Mandy Morello, spoke recently about forming the new group. From there, Stanhope reached out to Williams, whom he said he’d known since the two worked together on the 2003 recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis. “I happened to be in a conversation with Mark,” said Stanhope. “I said, ‘We wanna do this, and he said, ‘I'd love to help.’”
Stanhope, who serves as executive director of his county GOP organization, said the new group was born of frustration with the infighting and personal ambition that he believes have hampered the Tea Party movement. “We want to get back to the basics where this all started,” he said. “Educating, advocating and uniting, to promote conservative candidates,” especially at the local level.
On Tuesday, Morello posted a message on the new group’s rudimentary website, in which she detailed conflicts with the leaders of both Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots, then wrote: "That is why I have teamed up with Rodney Stanhope and Mark Williams to move past the childish destructive tactics in order to reset this movement back to the unity that was claiming the hearts and minds of America.”
Stanhope said the plan was for him and Williams to do the group’s public communication, including speaking in support of candidates, while Morello—a Sacramento-based conservative organizer and political consultant—handled the grassroots organizing and the paperwork. “You’re bringing three different places together into one,” said Stanhope, referring to the skill-sets of the three leaders. Stanhope added that the group planned to soon register as a PAC with both the FEC and the California secretary of state’s office, at which point it can begin raising money.
Williams, who is traveling, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Last month, he became the public face of Tea Party racism after he posted a lengthy screed, written in the voice of an NAACP official, which, among other things, praised slavery for offering blacks “three squares, room and board.” In response, the Tea Party Express, for which Williams served as chair and as a frequent spokesman, was publicly ousted from a national Tea Party umbrella group. Soon after, Tea Party Express announced it had cut ties with Williams.
Williams’ apparent return to the Tea Party could complicate the movement’s efforts to deflect the charges of racism that he helped bring on. Just this weekend, Tea Party Express held a “Uni-tea” event in Philadelphia, designed to convey an image of racial inclusion.
But Williams’ new partners don’t sound concerned. In her blog post, Morello downplayed the flap over Williams’ attack on the NAACP. “While I find his comments distasteful,” she wrote, “it is not my place to take away his free speech guaranteed by our First Amendment.”
And Stanhope told The Daily Beast he thought the NAACP controversy had been blown out of proportion. “This latest flap is garbage,” he said. “They want to throw the word racism out there these days. It’s overused.”
Zachary Roth was until May a reporter for Talking Points Memo, and is a contributing editor to The Washington Monthly. He also has written for The Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Slate, and Salon, among other outlets.