The New York Times this morning published an in-depth postmortem about the Tea Party, the reactionary, small-government-and-racism-loving movement credited with moving the mainstream Republican Party drastically to the right in the early 2010s. Unfortunately, the Times forgot to mention the racism part.
The original version of the story, which is archived here, inspired immediate outrage from national journalists, including at the Times. The story’s general narrative is that the Tea Party failed to accomplish its stated objectives—namely, decreasing the national debt through austerity measures. What the story critically omitted was any mention of the Tea Party’s broad success in providing a platform for racist and xenophobic candidates to seek office, no small number of whom got into politics by repeatedly claiming the nation’s first black president wasn’t born in the United States.
Hours after publication, the Times noted that they’d updated the story to add in this context. But in comparing the archived version with the live story, it appears the only change to the piece that even hints at the Tea Party’s roots as a racist reaction to President Obama is a single sentence in the middle of the story. Here’s the original version of that portion of the story, via the Wayback Machine:
But the bare-knuckle, brawling style that the Tea Party brought to American politics, Mr. Brandon added, is still very much intact. And in Mr. Trump, the movement has found a champion who is temperamentally suited to its way of practicing politics — even if he cares little for its founding ideas.
One significant limitation to the Tea Party is the contradiction in its DNA: It was a mass uprising based on notions of small-government libertarianism that are popular with think tanks but not so popular with most Americans.
The current version of the story has one sentence added to the second graf from above (which I’ve bolded):
One significant limitation to the Tea Party is the contradiction in its DNA: It was a mass uprising based on notions of small-government libertarianism that are popular with think tanks but not so popular with most Americans. And as Mr. Obama’s allies saw the movement, its outrage over the debt and deficit had another purpose: giving cover and a voice to those who wanted to attack the first black president — people who in some cases showed up at rallies waving signs with racist caricatures and references.
This is the only reference to racism in the text of the piece, which, as Lowery pointed out, is an idiotic way to frame the story of the Tea Party. The added sentence is also a major cop out, blaming “Obama’s allies” for viewing the rag-tag movement as racist rather than, you know, explicitly saying it was racist.
Case in point: One of the Tea Party’s most recognizable figures, former Congressman Joe Walsh, is now running for president against Trump. That in itself is funny, because they both rose to prominence by repeatedly baselessly claiming Obama is Muslim. Here’s a tweet from Walsh in 2014 that’s still up, in 2019, using the N-word. Does that say anything about the roots of the Tea Party’s opposition to the Obama era? If you ask the New York Times, not really!