July 18th, 2010
10:43 AM ET
11 years ago

Top Republican mum on Tea Party controversy

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.

Related: Satirical letter meant to spark discussion, Tea Party leader says

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.”

soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. John

    The NAACP 's accusation was there were tens of thousands of white nationalists and die hard racists within the tea party movement. It had no evidence of these claims so the number was made up and simply used as an attack against the tea party movement. There are black racists in this country too, people obsessed with their racial heritage who cannot get over their past and hate all white people because of that. They exist and have their own racist movements like the new black panther movement and the nation of islam. The NAACP is no longer a respectful organization anymore and needs to join the nation of islam and the black panthers on the fringe of american public opinion.

    July 18, 2010 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  2. marlene

    The Sen. from Kentucky is just following the GOP strategy for the fall elections. Don't say anything that will cause problems. No new ideas, no solutions, no problems, nothing to divide the party – just hope the American voter will forget the "Bush Era" policies that drove the economy off the cliff. Then when the GOP takes back control they will reestablish these policies.

    July 18, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. Observer

    A real leader would get into the middle of a problem and resolve it for the sake of his party and our nation. A real leader would.

    July 18, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  4. Coherent1

    Negative elements always attach themselves to organizations. What the NAACP attempted to do was to get the TEA Party to denounce the negative element that attached itself to their organization. Unfortunately, one of the leaders exposed himself as one of the negative elements that is supposed to be a miniscule few. I could start an organization that addresses the unfair treatment of people with dark skin. A negative element would attach itself and promote the elimination of all fair skin people. It would be my responsibility as a leader to denounce those who choose to use the organization as a means for an evil agenda. It is unfortunate that the evil side of the TEA Party gets so much attention. It's also unfortunate that several officials elected to compete for senate seats, bear a resemblence of the evil side of the TEA Party's movement. IJS

    July 18, 2010 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  5. David

    MISLEADING: "moderate". They are going to start using language like this to make independents and fence-sitters more comfortable with voting for them in November. They don't want a moderate they wan't someone who will pander to the will of corporations at the expense of the American people. There is nothing moderate about deregulation, tax-breaks for the rich, and letting the poor and middle class die because they don't have money.

    Republicans are only moderate in the sense that they would rather sit on their hands and allow Capital to run this country than do anything that would generate lasting benefits for the American people, i.e. the environment and health care.

    July 18, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  6. AFR531

    You were voted into office to represent your constituents-answer the question.

    July 18, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. sandy

    The do nothing party is now the say nothing party. This man is surposed to be a leader in his party. what a leader. None of the republicans want to discuss the issues, all they want to do is bring Obama down, no matter how bad it hurts this country. As for the idea of Boehner being House Speaker, now that is one scarey thought.

    July 18, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. John

    The assemblage of racists and goofballs called the 'tea party' is trailing around behind Republicans like bad stank.

    July 18, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  9. Ken in NC

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is "MUM"? Why can't he condem the racist that are in the Tea Party? While I am a Democrat, I do have friends that are members of the Tea Party and they are not racist but the are concerned about how a more radical element seems to be taking control of their party. One couple has told me they decided to simply go Independent. They claimed the Republican party is being over run with radicals so they cannot go back to being loyal Republicans so they have no choice but to become Independents and with many of the candidates being put out there now by the Tea Party they are finding it hard to be supportive of the more radical Republican (Tea Party) candidates. While I should be rejoicing at how it is spliting the Republican Party, I can't help but feel for them because it is also doing the same to our society. I suspect the old saying that nothing is forever is about to play it's trump card on my country proving to the world that "NOTHING IS FOREVER".

    July 18, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  10. new to politics

    I agree with "john" that the tea party is mostly civil but there are parts of the tea party that are racist and all the GOP would have to do is tell people like that to leave their events and prohibit signs like obama as hitler and as a monkey and this wouldnt be an issue. But no the GOP acts like it doesnt happen. You cant play both sides GOP. This is why they are out of power and hopefully stay that way.

    July 18, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  11. Jim

    Sen McConnell won't jump in now because he and the rest of the raging right are already in the deep end. They have condoned this behavior, have endorsed the use of inflammatory language and have never said no to their own. It is never OK to be a bigot, never OK to be a racist, regardless of political will or want. The Republicans are cowards and above all evil....big is best, white is better...not for this white boy. Call me liberal, call me socialist, call me anything...but never call me one of your own. A rainbow displays the colors of the universe....except for America. In some eyes the only color that is "Right" is white. We need more than the NAACP to get involved in the conversation, we need the Hispanic, Indian, Asian and any other immigrant community to show their colors too.

    July 18, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  12. Nate from Atlanta

    Yet McConnell can run his mouth about the president being on vacation.

    July 18, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. guy from NM

    Sure ,each time they open their mouth, it is to utter some moronic comment

    July 18, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  14. Squirt South Carolina

    My God! Republicans will only debate on what they can filibuster or stall—issues be damned?!?! That is beyond idiotic and demonstrates a total lack of ethics, integrity and honesty!! With an attitude like McConnell's, the Democrats may well be getting the election handed to them on a silver platter.

    Say it, forget it. Write it, regret it! Record it, get into a deeper trap trying to explain it!!

    July 18, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  15. Chipo1965

    hypocrites and bigots, thats what I see – regardless of what people write. I just wish they would be honest with themselves and with all of us... The Tea Baggers (self named) are angry white people who see they have ruined our wonderful country and now see they are losing power as well... its typical childish behavior..... when you have broken something make yourself feel better by taking it out on someone else. When you are scared, you have to have a boogey man. Barack and, lately it seems migrant workers are to blame for everything bad Bush and the rich elite did to this country.

    July 18, 2010 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  16. Hawk in Texas

    I simply cannot understand the people that keep defending these people. if you are not super rich then the republicans have no use for you. i suppose that by listening to faux news all the time has cooked their brains, if they had any to start with. any working person in america that votes republican is either very stupid or on some bad drugs. as mcconnel said my goodness, sounds like a closet homo to me.

    July 18, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  17. Ken in NC

    Republicans cannot respond to questions concerning the Tea Party because all they are allowed to say now is "NO" and they do not wish to offend the Tea Party. Mitch McConnell has gotten his orders from the Tea Party. He has been told to shut-up and he is obeying his new bosses.

    July 18, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  18. Nick

    It is so unusual for Mitch McConnell to stay "mum" on anything. He probably doesn't want to comment because (1) he secretly agrees with them. (2) doesn't know how the populace feel about the tea party (3) doesn't want to antagonize the religious right or the tea party followers.

    July 18, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. NCH in Boston

    “I bet it will be free entrance for blacks or black only park.” Do you realize how asinine and under-educated you sound? Discrimination is discrimination and I would like to believe that we have evolved in the 21st century not to engage in segregational behavior. As a black person in America I have accepted the fact that we will always have to confront racism in America where we are judge first by the color of our skin color and not by one’s character. This issue with the NAACP and the Tea Party is nothing new but I employ individuals to make sound educated arguments instead of engaging in buffoonery and making arbitrary racist remarks that do not address the issue at hand.

    July 18, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  20. Chuck

    What do you expect from a politician from a State like Kentucky.

    July 18, 2010 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. JW

    I'm surprised Crowley didn't ask McConnel about all the jobs he is stealing from other parts of the country for KY through corporate tax breaks and promises to companies like defense giant BAE Systems who are moving quite a few jobs away from more educated and qualified states like MN. This guy is trash.

    July 18, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. Doug

    Repugnicans didn't mind to add 1.8 trillion to the deficit to pay off their rich fatcat benefactors who received the lion's share of Bush's unpaid for tax cuts, but refuse to pay 30 billion to extend unemployment benefits to those suffering from the results of the financial catastrophe their policies caused. If you aren't in the top 1% in the income scale you shouldn't vote repugnican because they don't represent your financial interests. If you are unemployed you definitely should not vote repugnican

    July 18, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. Roger

    The NAACP deliberately tries to stir up controversy to support their very existence and the life style of some of their leaders. Perhaps they should clean up their own House first before making false accusations towards others. Is their anything more vicious than the statements of the New Black Panthers. Shame on you NAACP and to the DOJ who refuses to prosecute blantant violations of our laws. It seems whenever progress is made in the area of civil rights, the NAACP, Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and a few others create issues when none exist. Deep down the NAACP, Sharpton and Jackson seem to want a divided society.

    July 18, 2010 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Jason

    "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."

    Excuse me?!?! Mr McConnell, isn't it your job as a leader, a Senator, and a human being to "wade in to these disputes"? I believe it is, and for you to say you have better things to do, I'd like to know what they are, other than obstructing the will of the majority of people in this country. You had best address these issues and help to deal with them or you will be looking for employment when it comes time for your re-election attempt, and if you keep obstructing it might be very difficult for you to find that employment!

    July 18, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  25. Gayle

    People, stop listening to that Mormon er Moron Beck. He's the one that started this mess in the first place along with his employer.

    July 18, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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