A new website sponsored by the NAACP and left-leaning media operations is seeking videographers and bloggers who will search out "racism" and "extremism" among Tea Partiers.
Teapartytracker.org will feature tweets, interviews with people at rallies, blog entries and a picture of a t-shirt they say someone spotted at a rally that reads "Blacks own slaves in Mauitania, Sudan, Niger & Haiti."
The site, sponsored by the NAACP, Think Progress, New Left Media and Media Matters for America, will monitor "racism and other forms of extremism within the Tea Party movement. We call on the Tea Party to repudiate extremists among their ranks and join in civil dialogue with all Americans."
The NAACP and other groups have accused the Tea Party of several instances of racism, including spitting on a black congressman, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., on Capitol Hill as he went to vote for the health care bill.
Whether the spitting incident, which was caught on tape, was intentional remains subject to debate. Nonetheless, the narrative has remained a continuing theme of Tea Party critics.
The site's logo is also an old aphorism, apparently meant to suggest that monitoring the Tea Party will prevent the group from becoming more effective. "A watched teapot never boils," it reads.
The site's success will likely be measured in the "gotcha" moments it can accumulate that aim to embarrass or undermine the Tea Party movement. The submissions will most often come from citizen journalists, who have grown in form and fashion since Sen. George Allen of Virginia was ousted from his Senate seat in 1996 after his "macaca" moment.
At that time, a videographer sent by his opponent's campaign caught Allen using what critics later explained was an obscure racial slur. Allen's campaign sank afterward, and his Democratic opponent, Jim Webb, won the seat.
The fear of gotcha moments most recently forced Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to try to close a Tea Party meeting to media in order to allow people to speak freely. But Tea Partiers who attended the 90-minute event Wednesday in North Charleston City Hall told the Charleston Press and Courier that they were fine with media coverage.
"This stuff does happen, and it's stupid," Kelly McBride, a senior faculty member with the Poynter Institute in Florida, reportedly said. "Who isn't a reporter these days?"
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