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.
Williams often makes a big production about how racist he isn't. Here's a taste, back from a February Williams email to colleagues that landed in TPM's inbox:
I was in the streets marching for civil rights while asshole southern sheriffs were swinging nail studded baseball bats at black's heads, and stood between black kids and even more fucked up northern assholes were throwing rocks and gas bombs at school buses in my hometown during forced busing for deseg.
Two things you can always count on: I will defend my record on race to no one (sic), under any circumstances and, I will call out any racist, any time without regard to who they are ... and that includes our half white, racist president.
Caught that last bit? That's the kind of racial briar patch Williams so often finds himself in. Last week was no different. After the NAACP passed their resolution calling on tea party leaders to make it clear to their members that racist rhetoric at tea party rallies will not be tolerated, Williams took to his blog and the airwaves to offer his indictment of the NAACP for using the word "colored" it its name, which Williams says is a racial slur.
Here's how that sounded on NPR:
We are dealing with people who are professional race-baiters who make a very good living off this kind of thing. They make more money off of race than any slave trader, ever. It's time groups like the NAACP went to the trash heap of history where they belong along with all the other vile, racist groups that emerged in our history.
And here's how it sounded when Williams tried to make the point in the form of a fake letter to Abraham Lincoln from NAACP President Benjamin Jealous that Williams posted to his blog:
Perhaps the most racist point of all in the tea parties is their demand that government "stop raising our taxes." That is outrageous! How will we Colored People ever get a wide screen TV in every room if non-coloreds get to keep what they earn? Totally racist! The tea party expects coloreds to be productive members of society?
Back when Wiliams dropped his "monkey god" line, fellow TPE activist Joe Wierzbicki said Williams' statement "doesn't have anything to do with the Tea Party Express" because it "was written on Mr. William's personal blog, and not on any Tea Party Express website, blog or social networking page." When Williams took down the Colored People post from his blog on Friday, he wrote that this time folks had told him to take it down a notch on his personal blog. Williams said he heeded their advice, writing that he "heard from many very sober and thoughtful people who counseled me that my comments were an obstacle to progress and that I missed my intended target" before pulling down the post.
But is Williams really changing his ways and sparing the Tea Party Express more embarrassment (not to mention providing more vindication for the NAACP resolution)? Signs point to no.
Check out this video from MSNBC Friday, when Williams explained past racism seen at past tea party rallies as part of a conspiracy by the NAACP and others to take the tea party down: