AP's Tea Party News Theme: 'Fringe Groups, Extremists, or Infiltrators'

The tea-party headline at the bottom of the screen early this morning on the local D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA said this: "Tea Party Leaders Anxious About Extremists." The same headline graced an Associated Press story this morning. The theme of the day isn't the burdensome growth of government. It's media bias, piled upon media bias, as AP's David Lieb began: 

Organizers of tax-day tea parties are preparing for their biggest day of the year Thursday, as thousands of demonstrators participate in local rallies against high taxes and big government spending. But the leaders are striving to keep the rallies from presenting another image: one of fringe groups, extremists or infiltrators obsessed with hateful messages.

Sensitive that poor public perception could sink their movement, some rally planners have uninvited controversial speakers, beefed up security and urged participants to pack cameras to capture evidence of any disrupters. Organizers want to project a peaceful image of people upset by a growing and burdensome federal government.

If the media had ignored hateful signs and fringy attendees -- as they do for left-wing protests -- then this entire story would be unnecessary. The headline could be "Tea Party Leaders Anxious About Liberal Media Bias." But AP wants to keep all these fringy elements at the front of the story. Lieb elaborated on the "recent publicity hit" that the tea partiers were racists: 

The tea party took a recent publicity hit when three black Democratic congressmen asserted that they were targeted with racial slurs as they walked through thousands of health care protesters — many of them tea party activists — outside the U.S. Capitol on March 20. Some conservatives and tea party leaders insist it never happened.

But it's not the only racially charged incident. A photo posted on Flickr, which has attracted Internet chatter, shows a white man carrying a sign that says: "Obama's Plan White Slavery." The photo claims to have been shot at a tea party rally last year in Madison, Wis.

At a tea party rally Tuesday in Jefferson City, a couple of people wore T-shirts depicting President Barack Obama in white face paint above the word "Joker" — a reference to the villain in a Batman movie.

Lieb noted that birther theorist Orly Taitz and John Eidsmoe, "who has spoken previously to white supremacists," have been removed from Tea Party events -- but oddly, that seems to only encourage AP's theory that at bottom, these protesters are seriously fringy, but now they're just nervous about getting caught. 

Only near the end of the story did Lieb arrive at one real anxiety for the protest movement, of phony protesters who will make a liberal reporter's day when they're on the hunt for the kookiest kook:

Tea party leaders also are concerned that opponents may pose as tea party participants and cause a ruckus to damage the reputation of the movement. A Web site has urged people to "crash the tea party" to draw attention to the party's least appealing qualities.

The National Tea Party Federation is urging rally participants to point cameras at anyone acting obnoxious or hateful. The intent is to reprimand true tea party activists, disavow fringe followers or reveal the people as plants by opponents.

Once again, there's no reason for conservative rabble-rousers to infiltrate left-wing protests to discredit them -- since the liberal media have zero interest in discrediting them. 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis