Since tea party leader Mark Williams' racist rejoinder to the NAACP ignited into a national scandal, other members of the movement have been clamoring to disown Williams and disavow his inflammatory remarks. But as tea partiers have distanced themselves from the conservative talk show host and political operative, will tea party darling Sharron Angle, whose campaign has very close ties to Williams, follow suit?
Williams and the group he's affiliated with, the Tea Party Express, have almost single-handedly made Angle into a contender. Earlier this month, Angle described Williams, who stepped down this weekend as chairman of the outfit, as "instrumental" to her success. So does she still consider him a key to victory? So far, she's not saying.
Instead, Angle's campaign issued a statement to CNN that managed to avoid mentioning Williams' name directly and spin the controversy into a chance to bash her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "Mrs. Angle readily condemns the use of the type of inflammatory language used on somebody's private blog just like she condemned the language used by Majority Leader Harry Reid when he referenced our President as being a 'light-skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one'," Angle's spokesman Jerry Stacy said, referring to Reid's racially tone-deaf comments that appeared in Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's book Game Change. "This type of language is not supported by the many hard-working patriots behind the growing tea party movement which labors to sustain a grassroots movement to elect candidates who will protect the Constitution, and the smokescreens coming from Harry Reid's surrogates will not lessen the passion of the tea party movement."
Following a resolution by the NAACP calling on tea partiers to purge racist elements from their movement, Williams, responded by penning a satirical letter that described slavery as "a great gig," claimed the NAACP makes "more money off of race than any slave trader, ever," and referred to NAACP president Ben Jealous as "Tom's Nephew." The comments forced Williams to step down from the chairmanship of the Express. In response, tea party groups have been fending off accusations of racism and cutting their ties to the Express, a national tea party group that backs conservative candidates around the country. This past weekend, the Tea Party Federation, a coalition of conservative groups, booted Williams and the Express from their network.
It wouldn't be easy for Angle to sever ties with Williams and the Express. This spring, Angle received the Express' full-throated endorsement, and not long after, her campaign hauled in $5,000 from the group's political action committee—the maximum donation from a PAC. The Express has also spent more than $500,000 on TV ads, radio spots, and direct mail backing Angle, and has blasted email appeals to its members to drum up contributions to Angle's campaign. Williams has said his group "spent more in the campaign to defeat Harry Reid than just about any other group out there in this election cycle." Once the Williams-led Express got behind Angle, her rise in the GOP primary was meteoric. She had a mere 5 percent support in an early April Mason-Dixon poll, but won 40 percent of the primary vote in early June. Angle likely couldn't have pulled off her GOP primary upset over moderate Sue Lowden without the Express' backing.
Williams, who Angle said was "instrumental" in her campaign, has called Obama "our half white, racist president"
Williams himself has also personally sung Angle's praises. He's called her "the real deal," and said she "was a one-person Tea Party before there was a Tea Party movement." Angle has returned the compliment. Appearing on KDWN radio in Las Vegas, when Williams was guest-hosting, Angle called the now-disgraced Williams "instrumental" to her campaign.
Williams, however, is hardly the political operative to whom you want to hitch your wagon. Even before Williams proved the NAACP's point with his ugly remarks, his blog, MarkTalk.com, was a hotbed of racism and xenophobia. Williams, for instance, vehemently opposes the construction of a mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, and wrote this about the plans to do so:
The animals of allah for whom any day is a great day for a massacre are drooling over the positive response that they are getting from New York City officials over a proposal to build a 13 story monument to the 9/11 Muslims who hijacked those 4 airliners.
The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of their monkey-god and a "cultural center" for to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult.
Williams has called President Obama an "Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug" and even stood by that characterization on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. Williams has also labeled Obama "our half white, racist president." And though Williams likes to fashion himself as a tea party figurehead, members of the movement kept him at arm's length even before the NAACP blow-up—and now the movement is trying to cut him loose completely, as it attempts to refute charges of widespread racism within its ranks.
On Sunday night, the Nevada Democratic Party ripped Angle for her silence:
Will Sharron Angle—the "one-person Tea Party"—emerge from her underground bunker long enough to denounce the offensive and racist rants of Mark Williams and his group, the Tea Party Express? Or will she stand by him as she did the day the group endorsed her GOP Senate candidacy?
The Nevada State Democratic party is calling on Angle to return the $5,000 donation from the Tea Party Express and to return any funds it has helped her raise.
Angle's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment from Mother Jones on the controversy, and it's doubtful that it will return any campaign contributions. In fact, shortly after Williams said he was stepping down as chairman, the Tea Party Express blasted out a fundraising email asking members to donate to "help us get on the airwaves with our pro-Angle TV ads."