Are You, Or Have You Ever Been, A Member Of The Tea Party Coalition?

Somewhere, Joe McCarthy is smiling . . .

On today's Meet The Press, Rachel Maddow demanded to know whether Dick Armey was a member of a coalition with the Tea Party Patriots, a group she alleges to promote "violence."  Moderator David Gregory joined in the cross-examination of Armey, head of Freedom Works.

DAVID GREGORY: So you repudiate the Nazi imagery and all of that: you repudiate that?

DICK ARMEY: Absolutely.

GREGORY: That has no place in the debate?

ARMEY: As I said, I repudiated it when MoveOn.org did it to George Bush.  Did anybody here at this table repudiate it?

RACHEL MADDOW: You're a member of the --

ARMEY: We've just heard that it's all right when MoveOn.org did it.

MADDOW: That's not true.  

ARMEY: But it's not alright when anybody does it.

MADDOW: The Tea Party Patriots is an organization that your organization is a member of a coalition with.  It's called the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Freedom Coalition Partner. That's what Freedom Works is, that's what Americans For Prosperity is.  Tea Party Patriots, what they've got on their front page of their web site, the top item, is a video showing the violence at the town hall in Ybor City, in Tampa, Florida.  Essentially promoting that as if that was a good thing that happened, that showed what the Health Care Freedom Coalition wants to happen in that debate. Freedom Works is part of that coalition. You can say that you denounce it but the organization that you head is part of it.

ARMEY: One of the fascinating things about the Tea Party movement is that it is an enormously impressive grassroots uprising across the country, loosely affiliated people.  And there's probably 100, 200 websites by different people.

MADDOW: Are you a member of the Tea Party Patriots Health Care Freedom Coalition?

ARMEY: I'm a member of Freedom Works, and Freedom Works works with many people who fight for and argue on behalf of individual liberty.
Some observations:

By pressing Armey to repudiate "Nazi imagery," some viewers might have been led to think that ObamaCare protesters are turning up in brown shirts, etc.  In fact, of course, some protesters have analogized Dem leaders to Nazis.  You can debate the wisdom of the tactic, but this is just the opposite of using "Nazi imagery" to embrace it.

I'm not sure which video of Ybor City Maddow is referring to.  The Tea Party web site has an entire page of videos, 39 of them. It includes this one of a demonstration in Tampa, but there is nothing vaguely violent about it.  I did find another site with several videos from the event.  While there is mutual finger-pointing aplenty, it seems clear that SEIU union members were at least as likely responsible for the brouhaha as anyone else. Morever, the protesters were angered about the fact that the Dem elected officials who organized the event used two doors: one to let in supporters, another apparently to keep out protesters.  For Maddow to point the finger exclusively at the Tea Party is patently unfair.

Far from promoting violence, here are, from the Tea Party web site, its instructions to protesters:
  • "It is important to make sure all attendees are aware that we are always to be respectful of other opinions and don't engage in shouting matches. We need to win by debating in a civilized manner and by being informed on the issues and ideas and not trying to out shout each other."
  • "Assume that while you are out at any Tea Party Patriots event (even if it is not sponsored by TPP but could be linked back to TPP in some way) that you are being recorded. Everything your say or do could be used to attempt to paint Tea Party Patriots in a negative light by the opposition.  Act accordingly."

So what's next for Maddow?  A dramatic announcement, perhaps, that "I have in my pocket a list with the names of 205 Tea Party Patriots"?

Note: There is, of course, a significant difference between McCarthy and Maddow.  The MSNBC host falsely paints the ObamaCare protest movement as riddled with violence, whereas the Wisconsin senator rightly alleged that there were many Communists in government at the time.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.