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Tea Party Leader Once Called Obama “Indonesian Muslim Turned Welfare Thug”

Last Saturday night, Tea Party Express Chairman Mark Williams gained legendary status among right-wingers for bravely standing up to the unfair stereotypes of the Tea Party movement perpetuated by… Fox News. Turns out that, besides biting the hand that feeds, Williams was actively promoting these stereotypes last September when he called Barack Obama an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” on his blog.

Williams appeared on Geraldo at Large on Saturday to discuss the tea partiers along with guest Mike Huckabee and took all his anger at the mainstream media out on host Geraldo Rivera, who was taken by surprise and seemed to be holding back nervous laughter for most of the segment. Williams’ biggest gripe with Rivera was that he had been spinning tea party footage to make protesters seem racist and off-the-charts insane, taking some very personal swipes at the host that had nothing to do with tea party coverage.

It’s pretty easy to go on TV and bully a discredited tabloid hound like Geraldo Rivera around– even if he couldn’t even handle doing that without a misinterpretation of the legacy of William Randolph Hearst. Perhaps that’s precisely why Williams went on the program– to avoid what happened to him in September when he took his schtick to Anderson Cooper 360º and was held accountable for some nasty racist comments he had made online, namely that Obama was an “Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug” and “racist-in-chief” (Anderson Cooper was generous to him– he left out the fact that, in the same post, Williams refers to Obama as “Barry Soetoro,” a name conspiracy theorists claim Obama used to get financial aid as a foreign student in school).

Williams did not only fail to retract the remarks, but defended them by saying that “that’s how Obama’s acting!” Insult turned into injury when Williams was submitted to James Carville‘s maniacal laughter at his comments for several minutes.

He’s not going to be able to wiggle out of the racist label with those comments and, in retrospect, his treatment of Rivera– who is not only a minority but worked for several years in his youth with radical Puerto Rican separatist groups– seems suspect. He smiles politely at Carville, who is literally laughing at him in his face, and yet explodes with rage at an anchor on a station that is almost universally seen as sympathetic to his movement.

The racism label that continues to haunt the Tea Party movement will remain– whatever the truth may be about their beliefs– as long as people like Williams continue to be in charge of the media relations wing of their campaign, and the fact that they let Williams back on TV after the CNN incident to berate one of the few minority cable news hosts on TV is a sign that they may need more help cleaning up their act than they are willing to admit.

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