Jordan Marks, the head of Young Americans for Freedom and a Tea Party activist, took on CNN's Rick Sanchez and Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) Monday and came out looking like the only sane, civil man in the room.
Appearing on "Campbell Brown" to address recent allegations of death threats by Tea Partiers against Congressional Democrats, Marks told substitute host Sanchez, "I think it's a shame that people point to the tea party as inciting ignorance."
When Sanchez challenged him on this point, Marks calmly responded, "I would put them in the same category as the same people that call the tea party organizations or call FreedomWorks or call Americans for Prosperity or Young Americans for Freedom spouting the same ignorance."
As you might imagine, the typically hyperbolic Grayson was having none of this (video embedded below the fold with transcript and commentary, h/t NB readers Reginald Thornton and Patrick Mohan):
RICK SANCHEZ, SUBSTITUTE HOST: With me now, Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson -- you know him -- and Jordan Marks, executive director of Young Americans for Freedom.
Great to have both of you on.
By the way, Jordan, you spoke at the Tea Party's convention in Nashville back in February, right?
JORDAN MARKS, YOUNG AMERICANS FOR FREEDOM: That's right, Rick. I was one of the speakers leading the youth recruitment efforts at the tea party national convention.
SANCHEZ: Jordan, let me ask you a question. I know people are angry out there. But, you know, we've seen some real ugliness. More than 10 congressmen have received death threats. You know, last week when the tea party was there in Washington, John Lewis was called the "n" word. Elijah Cummings was spat on. I mean, it goes on and on. A lot of people say that the tea party has incited this kind of behavior. What is your response to that?
MARKS: Well, I think it's a shame that people point to the tea party as inciting ignorance. It's not something that we should be pointing out and highlighting and giving these people the credibility and the response that they desire.
SANCHEZ: So you don't think -- so you think those folks who were doing that are completely different from any of the rest of the folks who attend the tea parties, that the people who attend the tea parties are not that way?
MARKS: Well, I would put them in the same category as the same people that call the tea party organizations or call FreedomWorks or call Americans for Prosperity or Young Americans for Freedom spouting the same ignorance. We basically put them to the side. If it's a real threat, we contact the police. But we don't highlight it and we don't promote it. I don't believe every person from every party is represented by ignorance.
SANCHEZ: Congressman, Congressman let me bring you into this. Your take on that? That it is just a few people, a few bad eggs or bad apples?
Pretty sane, level-headed, non-confrontational response from such a young man, wouldn't you agree? Compare that to Grayson:
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: I'm glad to see that somebody on the right can start to show the shame that they should have been expressing now for a long time. There have been all sorts of efforts to insight violence by the right-wing. And that's the way the right- wing operates. That's the way it's operated historically. And I'm glad to see that at least one person here on the air is willing to try to separate himself. But the fact is that it comes from the ideology and not from any one particular person.
Please note Grayson acknowledging "somebody on the right" showing "the shame that they should have been expressing now for a long time." This will be important later on:
SANCHEZ: Well, I guess the question is does it come from Republican congressmen? And let me show you a piece of video, all right? Let's see if we got this video up here.
These are Republican congressmen who are spurring on the tea party movement. There you see some of the congressman in there now. We also have video of them holding up placards outside Congress actually getting them to cheer and one of them making hand signs in front of Nancy Pelosi's face. You guys have seen all of these.
MARKS: I was there.
SANCHEZ: Well this is what a lot of the Democratic congressmen, folks like Alan Grayson, says proves that the Republican Party is not only in line with the tea party movement but is actually created the heated rhetoric that has caused some of those acts of incivility that we have seen. How would you respond to that?
MARKS: Well, I would hate to believe that Chairman Steele, an African-American, would go and be one of the people to incite these, you know, the responses and really the disgusting behavior of a few individuals. I don't think he --
SANCHEZ: Wait a minute. Are you saying that because Chairman Steele is an African-American he's incapable of using heated rhetoric that may cause someone to become or say something racist?
MARKS: Well, I don't think he was calling for people to have racist response.
SANCHEZ: Well, I'm not talking about Chairman Steele. I'm not talking about Chairman Steele.
SANCHEZ: I am talking about the congressmen who were outside. And I don't know, do we have that picture? We don't have that. All right.
MARKS: I mean, are you going to judge the entire Democratic Party by a few people that hold up Nazi symbols at their rallies? I don't think -- I think this is a double standard that we're seeing here.
Great point, right? As NewsBusters has been reporting for months, these kinds of signs were quite common at anti-Bush rallies a few years ago.
Not surprisingly, Sanchez and Grayson have conveniently forgotten:
GRAYSON: That's ridiculous. That's absolutely ridiculous.
MARKS: And to say it's because of the ideology to point to the ideology, this is the actual prejudice that conservatives face on college campuses --
GRAYSON: Oh, how sad.
MARKS: -- in the nation to say automatically anything that you say is going to be considered racist.
SANCHEZ: No, no, we weren't saying that. I wasn't. But let me just ask you --
MARKS: Well, I think Congressman Grayson was.
SANCHEZ: What Democratic congressman has held up a swastika?
GRAYSON: It's never happened. He's lying. Stop lying.
MARKS: I never said the congressman held up a swastika. But what Republican congressman did you see holding swastikas. And wasn't it a Democrat Senator Byrd that was a member of the KKK? Are you going to hold the entire party accountable because of that?
Ouch. Apparently recognizing he'd been beaten badly on this point, Sanchez yielded to the Congressman:
SANCHEZ: Senator -- I mean, Congressman Grayson?
GRAYSON: Well, that's premature. But listen, we have now reached the point of absurdity. OK. The right has fomented a national nervous breakdown. They keep pushing the panic button on their followers over and over and over again, trying to get them stoked on hatred and on fear. And they've succeeded. They've succeed in driving these people to the point where they're threatening my 5- year-old son.
Now why don't you just say you're sorry? That's what you ought to be saying, I'm sorry. Don't try to push it off on the Democrats. Say you're sorry. Apologize to my 5-year-old.
Readers are reminded of what Grayson said moments earlier: "I'm glad to see that somebody on the right can start to show the shame that they should have been expressing now for a long time...And I'm glad to see that at least one person here on the air is willing to try to separate himself. But the fact is that it comes from the ideology and not from any one particular person."
So, earlier in the interview, Grayson applauded Marks for acknowledging wrong-doing by some Tea Partiers, and separate himself and his organization from it. Unfortunately, now that Marks demonstrated how such actions are common on the Left, and aren't necessarily a reflection of what either Party stands for, Grayson began behaving like a child:
MARKS: Tea party should not be accepting responsibility for this. The Republican Party should not be accepting responsibility for this.
GRAYSON: Well, look --
MARKS: The Democratic Party should not be accepting responsibility for this. Individuals need to accept responsibility. When you -- when you --
GRAYSON: You're not accepting responsibility.
MARKS: When you said that the health care bill is similar to a holocaust, they didn't hold the Democratic Party responsible.
GRAYSON: You were in that crowd. You were cheering.
MARKS: You went ahead and apologized for your individual remarks. Am I wrong? Did you apologize for saying that this health care bill is going to cause, if it's not passed it's going to cause a holocaust? And you apologized for it, is that right?
GRAYSON: You know, listen, people like you -- people like you -- and it's very apt that your name is Marks -- people like you, your dreams turn into other people's nightmares. And it's time you owned up to it.
MARKS: We as conservatives believe we have winning principles and we stick by these principles. Small government.
GRAYSON: Your principles are violence.
MARKS: I don't think anyone and my principles are --
GRAYSON: Anger, hatred and violence.
MARKS: In fact, in the charter of my personal organization, it says if you are a person that does do the so-called acts that happen towards these congressmen, you're kicked out of my organization.
GRAYSON: Oh, yes.
MARKS: You can go look it up online. We are a public organization.
GRAYSON: See if that helps to bring back the dead.
Bring back the dead?
SANCHEZ: Let me ask you, Jordan --
MARKS: I don't understand how that has to do with anything with bringing back the dead?
SANCHEZ: What did you mean by that? What did you mean by that, Congressman, about bringing back the dead?
GRAYSON: What I meant is that these are death threats including one to my 5-year-old son. Now, if they're actually acted upon, you think expelling someone from your organization of 12 people is somehow going to bring back my son?
Astonishing stupidity and hyperbole by Grayson. Let's see how Sanchez handled it:
MARKS: Well, Congressman, how do you know that these are tea party members? How do you know that these are registered -- not registered Democrats? How do you know they're not registered Democrats? Have you looked up the registration?
GRAYSON: Because it's the same people who demonstrate and chant over and over again no health care, no health care. Think about that. No health care. That's what they're chanting.
MARKS: Oh, I was at the rally. And I cheered and I chanted no health care.
MARKS: True to form. That's what we're calling for.
GRAYSON: Yes, people like you have this --
MARKS: Health care reform, not the health care reform --
GRAYSON: -- tremendous ability to withstand other people's pain and not your own.
SANCHEZ: We'll leave it there.
"We'll leave it there?" Wow, nice job of calling Grayson out for saying Marks et al might end up being responsible for the death of the Congressman's son if such a fate befell him:
MARKS: I differ personally and I don't think I hold any particular party or any group responsible.
GRAYSON: You need to apologize.
MARKS: We leave it at that. Gentlemen, Jordan, thanks so much. Congressman Grayson, we appreciate you coming on and announcing that you'll soon be a senator from the state of California.
MARKS: Well, you know, it's a shame --
GRAYSON: By the way, I have to ask you, Rick, are they paying you time and a half for overtime tonight.
SANCHEZ: Oh, you saw me on 3:00 and 4:00, right?
SANCHEZ: I appreciate that. And kudos to you as well. Jordan, good guest. I appreciate the spirited conversation.
MARKS: Thank you very much. And, you know, I just want to say before we leave that these are good people out there, they're hard- working Americans. And that they can't be lumped in by the random death threats that are taking place.
SANCHEZ: Nobody is using --
MARKS: And those people should stop that.
SANCHEZ: We understand what you're saying. And we appreciate your point of view. Congressman, we appreciate you as well. My thanks to both of you.
GRAYSON: Thank you, Rick.
In the end, the young man from YAF showed himself to be quite a force to be reckoned with.
Potentially, Marks's poise and calm might have surprised Sanchez and Grayson, so much so that he ended up looking like the only adult on the screen.
Nice job, Jordan.