Washington (CNN) – The top Republican in the Senate sought Sunday to stay out of the weeklong war of words between the NAACP and the Tea Party movement.
At its annual convention last week, the longstanding civil rights organization passed a resolution that called on the conservative grassroots movement to repudiate racism within its ranks. The resolution set off a national firestorm that came to a head Friday when Mark Williams, a spokesman for a national Tea Party group, decided to remove a satirical letter he had posted on his blog site earlier in the week in response to the resolution.
Asked about the controversy on CNN’s State of the Union, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sidestepped the prickly issue.
“Oh my goodness, . . . I’m not interested in getting into that debate,” McConnell told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “What we’re interested in is trying to have an election this fall that will respond to what the American people are asking us to do which is to have some checks and balances here.”
Asked whether some of the signs and imagery at some Tea Party rallies made him uncomfortable, the Kentucky Republican responded, “there are all kinds of things going on in America that make me uncomfortable, both on the right and on the left. I’ve got better things to do than to wade in to all of these disputes and discussions that are going out in the country.
“What we’re trying to do is to make the president a born-again moderate. We’re trying to send enough conservatives to Congress this November to move him in a different direction.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, had a different take on the racial controversy.
Asked by Crowley whether he believes the Tea Party movement condones racism, Hoyer suggested that some individuals might be taking advantage of the grassroots movement to stir up racial strife.
“I think there are some members who have used the Tea Party – whether it’s the Tea Party itself – there are some individuals who have tried to exacerbate racial tensions in this country,” Hoyer told Crowley.
The leading Democrat added, “What we need to be doing is talking about the issues and solutions and what happened in the past to get us in the ditch that we’re in. If we do that, I think this will be a positive election [in November]. If we try to simply inflame differences and create division, I think that will not be positive and I think that’s frankly what some are doing.”