Imagine a group of angry demonstrators toting swastika-festooned protest signs calling politicians Nazis, shouting obscenities and racial remarks and throwing rocks and bottles at police officers sent to keep order. No, these are not Tea Partiers. They are the mob that turned out last week to protest Arizona's new immigration-enforcement law. This group of liberal rowdies has been dubbed the Tequila Party.
For the most part, liberal media coverage overlooked all the leftist violence. Typical headlines described the protest as "mostly peaceful," with media outlets avoiding details about why they had to use the qualifier "mostly." Reporting a near-riot by the opponents of the Arizona law doesn't fit the dominant media storyline.
Some of the editorial bias is blatant. An Associated Press story about the Arizona immigration law quoted a 13-year-old Hispanic boy saying, "We can't be in the streets anymore without the pigs thinking we're illegal immigrants." The Washington Post sanitized the boy's views towards law enforcement by replacing the word "pigs" with "[police]." If a Tea Partier used a slur of any kind, it's doubtful it would be given the square-bracket treatment. It would probably be a banner headline.
The assumption that Tea Partiers are hate-filled bullies explains why major media outlets rushed out reports that demonstrators in Washington opposing the government health care takeover subjected black members of Congress to racial slurs and spat on them. The accusations were never proved, and substantial video evidence and eyewitness accounts suggest the events never happened. There was no press coverage, however, when supporters of illegal immigration used physical intimidation tactics and made threats of violence against demonstrators on the National Mall the same day.
At a Tea Party rally in Searchlight, Nev., on March 27, supporters of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threw eggs at buses carrying attendees and later harassed and threatened some of them. The limited-government advocates at FreedomWorks have begun publicizing the hateful e-mail and voice messages they have received, as well as documenting other examples of angry leftist violence, intimidation and extremism.
The most press coverage on this effort to expose hateful liberal extremism came when voice-over actor Lance Baxter stupidly left a voice mail asking for "the percentage of people that are mentally retarded who are working for FreedomWorks." As a result, he lost a high-profile gig with Geico insurance. Mr. Baxter's crime was his politically incorrect use of the word "retarded." If he had inquired about the percentage of illiterate, fascist, tea-bagging racists at FreedomWorks, we suspect he would have been given a pass, and probably some kind of award.
Negative views like this are part of the embedded narrative of Tea Party coverage. But the storyline suffered a tectonic shift when an April 12 CBS News/New York Times poll of self-identified Tea Partiers found that they were not illiterate rednecks, but tend to be older, better educated, higher income, married people. They make up 18 percent of the population, compared with 20 percent who self-identified as somewhat or very liberal.
The Tea Partiers do not incite violence; they are salt-of-the-earth middle Americans who are desperately worried about the misguided policies and wrongheaded vision being promoted by President Obama and his congressional allies. Contrast them with the younger, less educated, lower income, angry, racially motivated mob that turned out in Phoenix. The Tequila Party and gangsters like them represent the core and the pride of the liberal base. If an angry, shouting mob throwing bottles at police is the face of contemporary liberalism, it's no wonder Americans are turning against them in droves.