The right wing's convenient Mark Williams amnesia

››› ››› BROOKE OBIE

On Larry King Live, The Nationwide Tea Party Coalition organizer Dana Loesch and conservative strategist Michael Reagan attempted to paint recently embattled Tea Party Express leader Mark Williams as an obscure, unimportant tea party member. But as NY Daily News points out, Williams' Tea Party Express--of which Williams served as the organization's public face--"is one of the most influential in the conservative movement," and has raised "$2.3 million this year."

The right plays dumb: "Mark Williams, who?"

Loesch: "I think when I first heard about Mark Williams, I honestly thought Mark Williams who?" On the July 19 edition of CNN's Larry King Live, Nationwide Tea Party Coalition organizer Dana Loesch and conservative Michael Reagan tried to disappear Mark Williams and the significance of the Tea Party Express from the National Tea Party movement. Loesch claimed that Williams "is a legend in his own mind," who "never represented an entire movement."

Michael Reagan: "I don't know how you found Mark Williams...they are pointing at Mark Williams like he's leading up some wing of the Tea Party movement." Reagan agreed with Loesch's characterization of Williams as being an obscure member of the tea party movement. From CNN's Larry King Live:

DANA LOESCH, ORGANIZER, THE NATIONWIDE TEA PARTY COALITION: I think when I first heard about Mark Williams, I honestly thought Mark Williams who? And I don't, you know, I don't want to get all catty. I think this dude is a legend in his own mind. Why all this attention is being given to like one person? He's never represented an entire movement. He is, I think, to himself perhaps, he thought he did, but never to me and never to anybody that I know. And I just think that he says a lot of what he -- I think he says a lot of what he says for attention, honestly.

[...]

MICHAEL REAGAN (CHAIRMAN, THE REAGAN GROUP): I got to agree, I don't know how you found Mark Williams. He's been floating through radio for 20 years. I know Mark Williams. He wrote it tongue and cheek and everybody took it very serious. When they are pointing at Mark Williams like he's leading up some wing of the Tea Party movement.

[...]

REAGAN: The fact of the matter is I don't know why you are taking Mark Williams so dog gone serious. Here's a guy who has had 37 radio shows in 12 years. And you are taking him like he is the spokesman and the president of the United States of America. He's not. He's Mark Williams. And you guys are taking him really too serious.

KING: Is he cooky?

REAGAN: Yes, Mark Williams has been cooky. He tries to raise the level so people call him. I'll tell you right now he's probably sitting at home laughing his butt off that everybody is talking about Mark Williams.

In fact, Williams was the spokesperson for the influential Tea Party Express

Williams is the spokesperson for Tea Party Express. The Tea Party Express website lists Mark Williams as its "Spokesperson."

NY Daily News: "Williams' Tea Party Express is one of the most influential in the conservative movement." In a July 18 article, NY Daily News reported that Mark Williams' Tea Party Express is "one of the most influential in the conservative movement" and has raised "$2.3 million this year":

Williams' Tea Party Express is one of the most influential in the conservative movement. It has reportedly raised $2.3 million this year, helped elect Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts and organized a rally in Nevada that featured a rare Sarah Palin speech.

TPM: Tea Party Express is "one of the most establishment-connected groups on the Tea Party circuit," Williams "was the highest-profile public face of the group." In a July 19 report, Talking Points Memo detailed some of the Tea Party Express' influence - including propelling Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle:

As the public face of the Tea Party Express, which has helped propel candidates like Nevada Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle to victory this year, Williams represents one of the most establishment-connected groups on the Tea Party circuit. Tea Party Express was founded and is run by Republican operatives, which puts it on par with groups like FreedomWorks.

Before it was cool for tea partiers to publicly endorse Republican candidates, the Tea Party Express was doing it. They're no fringe group of grassroots acitivists -- these guys are supposed to be the professionals. The group was created by a team of high-level California Republican consultants, and the Tea Party Express' PAC -- Our Country Deserves Better -- still boasts legendary GOP bamboozler and former Rep. Howard Kaloogian as its co-chair, and veteran Republican political consultant Sal Russo as its chief strategist.

Williams, a former conservative talk show host and blogger, was the highest-profile public face of the group. But his propensity to stumble -- I guess accidentally -- into racism on his personal blog and in TV appearances has led to him being disavowed by his colleagues at TPE. One such disavowal came after his classic "Allah is a monkey god" email back in May. And now, in the wake of the NAACP calling on tea party leaders like Williams to disavow rhetoric of the sort Williams has been using, Williams says other colleagues have again called on him to cool it with all the -- I guess accidental -- racism stuff.

In fact, after the firestorm over Williams' blog post, organizers of TPE are taking pains to make it clear that Williams' official role in the movement is not what it once was. Though he's still the group's spokesperson, he resigned as Tea Party Express' chairman in June -- the change wasn't reflected on the group's website until Williams' comments came under intense scrutiny.

CNN reported on Tea Party Express-backed candidates' successes in Republican primaries. In a June 23 post, titled "Another victory for the Tea Party Express," CNN's Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser wrote that Republican candidate for the Senate Mike Lee has the Tea Party Express to thank for his primary win in Utah, along with Senator Scott Brown's Massachusetts victory, and candidate Sharron Angle's rise from obscurity:

One of the winners in Tuesday's primaries in Utah wasn't on the ballot, and isn't even based in the state.

Republican candidate for the Senate Mike Lee was victorious in the battle for his party's nomination, but his win can also be seen as another primary victory for the Tea Party Express, a national Tea Party organization based in California.

The group, best known for its three high profile national bus tours, endorsed Lee and launched a radio campaign and a get out the vote effort to assist the candidate.

"We are so excited to see another tea party candidate win a critical election, and the voters in Utah will be well-served with Mike Lee in the U.S. Senate," said Tea Party Express Political Director Bryan Shroyer, in a statement.

Lee, a lawyer and one-time clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, was also endorsed by Freedom Works. The nonprofit conservative organization that helps train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organizational heft behind the Tea Party movement assisted in the get-out-the-vote efforts in Utah for Lee.

[...]

Sen. Bob Bennett, who finished third in the voting by delegates, was eliminated from advancing to the primary, ending his chances of re-election for a fourth term. Bennett became the first sitting senator to go down to defeat in a primary season marked by strong anti-incumbent sentiment.

Earlier this year, the Tea Party Express was among a number of conservative groups to actively work to defeat Bennett. The organization's third cross country bus tour included stops in Utah in March, where Tea Party Express leaders urged Republican voters to defeat Bennett in his bid for re-election.

Lee's victory is the second statewide win for the Tea Party Express this month. They recently pumped more than $500,000 into the fight for the Republican Senate nomination in neighboring Nevada, helping transform ex-state lawmaker Sharron Angle, once considered a long shot, into an easy winner in the primary election.

The Tea Party Express also takes partial credit for convincing longtime Democratic Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan not to run for re-election this year. Stupak announced his decision in April not to make a bid for another term, as the group was targeting the lawmaker with rallies in his district during their most recent cross country bus tour.

At the time, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted that the protests and rallies by Tea Party activists across the country were having an impact on lawmakers' decisions about running for another term.

"Do I think that negative atmosphere that's been created by the Tea Party and by others certainly goes into the thinking of Members? I think it does. I think you honestly have to point out that it does," Hoyer told reporters at a weekly pen and pad session in the Capitol.

[...]

The Tea Party Express also takes some credit for helping Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in January's special election for the seat of the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy. The group endorsed Brown and put up television ads in support of the candidate.

Fox News has aggressively promoted the Tea Party Express tours. Continuing its political activism, Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Nation, and FoxNews.com have aggressively promoted the Tea Party Express tours, going so far as to cheerlead for the protests and advertise the tea party schedule so viewers "can be a part" of the events. Indeed, a Fox News producer was even caught coaching a crowd to cheer during a stop of the Tea Party Express. In turn, the organizers of the Tea Party Express, The OCDB PAC, used Fox News' coverage of its Tea Party Express to fundraise in a July 29, 2009, email.

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Diversity & Discrimination, Race & Ethnicity
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Michael Reagan, Dana Loesch
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