Wash Post Quotes Bogus Tea Party Leader

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The piece, titled “Republicans woo ‘tea party’ members, but face activists’ distrust of GOP,” tells of RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s attempt to bring this outrage movement into the Big Tent. Sounds like the kind of story that would feature lots of voices from the Tea Party.

There’s one. The only representative of the Tea Party movement quoted by reporter Philip Rucker is one Dale Robertson, owner of TeaParty.org, who claims to represent 6 million people.  Robertson serves as the face of the “distrust” that the Post tries to portray in the piece. Rucker writes, “Robertson said he has reached out repeatedly to Steele but has been rebuffed. ‘He hasn’t called me back,’ Robertson said. ‘I find that disconcerting.'”

Also disconcerting is that the Post published that quote with a straight face. If the paper had bothered to assign someone to cover the burgeoning Tea Party movement, its editors would have known that Robertson doesn’t actually represent anyone, except maybe himself. Nor is this the first time Robertson has complained to a gullible reporter that the GOP is ignoring him. But the Post should have known that Michael Steele, a black man, isn’t likely to return the calls of a guy who just last week sent out a fundraising appeal featuring a photo of Obama dressed as a pimp.

Not convinced yet that the Post should have at least provided some context on Robertson’s complaint about Steele’s nonresponsiveness? Then consider this: Last year, Robertson was asked to leave a Houston Tea Party for carrying a sign comparing taxpayers to “niggars.

Like many of the media hounds claiming to represent the grassroots Tea Party movement, Robertson’s main credential is opportunism. Last spring, as the movement was taking root, he had the foresight to register a whole bunch of tea party domain names, including teaparty.org, Texas Tea Party, Houston Tea Party, HoustonTXTeaParty, and so on. Then he tried to sell the names back to the actual Texas tea party leaders, making veiled threats about lawsuits over their use of the Tea Party name. The former Navy officer who claims to be running for governor of Texas has even put some of the domain names on eBay, with the stated intent of saving his house from foreclosure. While real Tea Party leaders have distanced themselves from Robertson, the media have embraced him and his false claim that he founded the entire Tea Party movement. Despite efforts by Tea Party leaders to publicize Robertson’s phony creds and racist sign-making habits, Robertson has appeared on Fox News, C-Span, Russia Today, as well as a host of radio shows, and he’s been quoted with authority in a variety of newspapers. The Washington Post quote, though, is definitely a coup for Roberston, and a true embarrassment for the Post, which really should have known better.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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