Behar Links Racist Signs to Tea Partiers, Then Denies Mentioning Race, ‘Scared to Go’ to Events

On Monday’s Joy Behar Show on HLN, when guest Mark Williams of Tea Party Express complained to Behar and fellow guest Ari Melber of the Nation about Tea Party activists being smeared as racist, the HLN host claimed that she had not brought up race during the segment, even though she opened the discussion by referring to stereotypes about Tea Party activists as she cracked that perhaps public opinion "might drive people to stop making racist signs and wearing hats made of teabags." Behar introduced the segment: "The anti-government sentiment that has driven the Tea Party movement seems to be working as four out of five Americans say they don`t trust the government. I wonder if these same sentiments might drive people to stop making racist signs and wearing hats made of teabags."

But Behar and Melber later developed amnesia as Behar claimed, "We didn’t mention race":

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Is there anything that either of you have ever encountered you don`t see as racist? Joy, you called "Black Friday" racist. You call the term "black sheep" racist. Everything is racist in your mind.

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: You know, it`s funny. This is such a great example because this entire segment we haven`t heard one reference to race.

WILLIAMS: Everything is racism, in your mind.

MELBER: We haven`t heard one reference to race except by you. I didn`t bring up race.

JOY BEHAR: We didn`t mention race.

MELBER: Joy didn`t mention of race. And now you`re here saying everything is racist. It`s weird.

A bit earlier, after Williams complained about Behar for commenting that there is "a lot of anger in the Tea Party movement," the HLN host cited television as her source of information about the movement and asserted that "I’m scared to go" to an event:

BEHAR: There seems to be a lot of anger in the Tea Party movement. Don`t deny it.

WILLIAMS: Have you been to any of our events?

BEHAR: I`ve seen it on television.

WILLIAMS: We have music acts.

BEHAR: I`m scared to go.

WILLIAMS: Victoria Jackson, Jimmy Labriola, we have-

BEHAR: Jimmy Labriola? I did standup with Jimmy Labriola. No brain trust, trust me.

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the Monday, April 19, Joy Behar Show on HLN, with critical portions in bold:

JOY BEHAR: The anti-government sentiment that has driven the Tea Party movement seems to be working as four out of five Americans say they don`t trust the government. I wonder if these same sentiments might drive people to stop making racist signs and wearing hats made of teabags. With me to talk about this is Mark Williams, Chairman of Tea Party Express and Vice Chairman of Our Country Deserves Better, and Ari Melber, a correspondent for the Nation magazine. Welcome, you guys. Okay, Mark, are you happy to see that statistic? More recruits for you, right?

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Well, no, I`m not happy to see that only like one in five of us trust our government. That`s a disaster. And that`s just indicative of how much work we have to do to restore our government to what it`s supposed to be so we can trust it again. I don`t think I`ve seen it this bad since Vietnam.

BEHAR: But do you think that people are buying into the inflammatory rhetoric from the extreme right in this country on television and on talk radio which causes them to believe that the government is against them? Or are people actually thinking for themselves?

WILLIAMS: I don`t know that, I don`t know which extreme right wing rhetoric you`re listening to.

BEHAR: Oh, yes you do.

WILLIAMS: I’ve heard the extremes on both sides.

BEHAR: You know which ones I mean.

WILLIAMS: The people that you see in the streets right now are Americans who work for a living who are sick and tired of being plucked like chickens for the sake of a bunch of other people like the big corporations and such who have got their hands in their pockets. It`s time to restore a constitutional balance to this country.

BEHAR: Okay, I`m talking about inflammatory rhetoric right now. Bill Clinton this weekend drew parallels between the Oklahoma City bombing-

WILLIAMS: Yeah, that was pretty inflammatory.

BEHAR: -and the mood in some parts of the country. He talked about the remarks in the Situation Room. Watch this.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON CLIP #1: There`s the same kind of economic and social upheaval now that there was then.

CLINTON CLIP #2: Then, you had the rise of extremist voices on talk radio. Here you’ve got a zillion Internet sites, people, you know, pumping up a lot of this-

WOLF BLITZER, HOST OF CNN’S THE SITUATION ROOM: So what you`re saying is potentially it could be worse today because of this echo chamber?

CLINTON: Yeah, the echo chamber is bigger today.

BEHAR: Ari, do you think President Clinton has a point?

ARI MELBER, THE NATION: I think he does. He obviously was President when we had a terrible domestic terror attack. And these words do matter. People have the right to speak and we hear that a lot and it`s true. But they also have to take some responsibility for the extremists in their midst and in many cases, the extremism that they`re pushing.

BEHAR: Mark, don`t you think the President had a point there?

WILLIAMS: I think he was extremely inflammatory and I’d like to see him stop.

BEHAR: That he was inflammatory?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

BEHAR: Why do you say that?

WILLIAMS: Where does he get off, you know, telling us that people who love their country and support the Constitution, which by the way is mankind`s premiere human rights document, where does he get off telling them that they`re militia, that they`re Timothy McVeigh? That was very inflammatory and he should be ashamed of himself. He used to be President. He knows better.

BEHAR: Go ahead, Ari.

MELBER: I mean, Mark, it`s just funny, you know, I mean, you`re being contentious. You obviously know that the inflammatory conversations that we`re talking about are the ones that are comparing this administration to some sort of regime or comparing the President to Hitler. And obviously you can`t seriously come on TV and sit here and say that that`s the same as President Clinton telling people to slow it down a little bit.

BEHAR: Right.

WILLIAMS: Well, Hitler wasn`t a Marxist and I don`t know who’s comparing him to Hitler.

MELBER: You do know who’s comparing him to Hitler because you`ve seen the coverage of these events – not all people but some people at these events comparing him to Hitler. Why do you say you don`t know that?

WILLIAMS: I have seen the coverage and what you don`t get is that it`s impossible for a tea partier to be that way. The Constitution-

BEHAR: Really?

WILLIAMS: -sets this country up as the only society in the history of man premised on the notion that government exists to protect individual human rights. We now have an administration and an ideology in control which believes that the state has all the rights and we people only have privileges.

BEHAR: Where was the Tea Party during the Bush administration?

WILLIAMS: Protesting. Protesting.

BEHAR: They were? I never saw them.

WILLIAMS: You weren`t paying attention. A lot of us were screaming and it hadn`t reached critical mass. The problem we had during two Bushes and a Clinton, a lot of us were out here warning that we were going to have some serious problems. But Barack Obama came along and he`s a loud burglar trying to bite off more than he can chew, and people, it reached critical mass.

BEHAR: I don`t really understand why the tea partiers are so mad. From what I’ve read in the New York Times the other day-

WILLIAMS: They`re not mad, they`re celebrating the Constitution. They’re celebrating their country.

BEHAR: All right. Fine. Well, there seems to be a lot of anger in the Tea Party movement. Don`t deny it.

WILLIAMS: Have you been to any of our events?

BEHAR: I`ve seen it on television.

WILLIAMS: We have music acts.

BEHAR: I`m scared to go.

WILLIAMS: Victoria Jackson, Jimmy Labriola, we have-

BEHAR: Jimmy Labriola? I did standup with Jimmy Labriola. No brain trust, trust me.

WILLIAMS: It’s a party, a celebration.

BEHAR: Yeah, go ahead. Jimmy Labriola. Oh, my God.

MELBER: Let me respond to what you’ve been saying. We`re long on rhetoric here and long apparently on old standup acts and that`s fine. If you look at the facts, though, on the economic front, for example, there was a report out from the Tax Policy Center by the non-partisan Brookings Institution this week that shows that middle class, median income taxes are the lowest since 1955. And then you have tea partiers and other folks making arguments and saying often falsely that somehow taxes are higher under this administration. They`re not. Now, we can have the policy debate over what`s good and what`s worth funding, but when people come out moving beyond rhetoric and making these arguments on facts, a lot of their policies are wrong. So we`ve got unfortunately the uninformed leading the angry, it can be a rough combination.

WILLIAMS: Is there anything that either of you have ever encountered you don`t see as racist? Joy, you called "Black Friday" racist. You call the term "black sheep" racist. Everything is racist in your mind.

MELBER: You know, it`s funny. This is such a great example because this entire segment we haven`t heard one reference to race.

WILLIAMS: Everything is racism, in your mind.

MELBER: We haven`t heard one reference to race except by you. I didn`t bring up race.

BEHAR: We didn`t mention race.

MELBER: Joy didn`t mention of race. And now you`re here saying everything is racist. It`s weird.

BEHAR: Exactly. You know, another question for you, Mark. The tea partiers are supposedly educated. They are well, what`s the word, I was going to say well endowed, but that would be over the top. They make a good living, you know. Their kids go to public schools. You know, all this stuff. You guys like the idea of Medicare and Social Security. What exactly are you so pissed off about?

WILLIAMS: What exactly don`t you like about this country and our Constitution?

BEHAR: I love the constitution. I love it.

WILLIAMS: And how dare you, how dare you insult working men and women who love their country-

BEHAR: Who`s insulting them?

WILLIAMS: -and feel that it`s being taken away from them-

BEHAR: I’m not insulting anybody, Mark.

WILLIAMS: -who believe in equal rights for all including the working stiff in this country and the people who support the welfare cases, including AIG.

BEHAR: Listen Mark. Don`t give me that crap. I come from a working class family, okay? My mother was a sewing machine operator. My father was a truck driver. Give it a rest. Thank you, guys.