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How the Tea Party’s “Black Conservatives” Reacted to the Zimmerman Verdict

July 17, 2013

By Julia Ioffe

In the hours after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder and acquitted on manslaughter charges, the Tea Party News Network—a shoestring operation that is exactly what it sounds like and that launched last fall—sent out an email blast touting the voices of “black conservatives” sounding off on the verdict. The press release featured statements from five people, all of whom provided a view that seemed to clash with that of Rev. Al Sharpton.

“While I’m thrilled with this outcome, it should never have come to this. This case should never have been brought forward,” wrote Horace Cooper, a former law professor. “The rush to arrest and indict Zimmerman merely to appease the media or race-based interest groups not only jeopardized Mr. Zimmerman’s rights and liberty, but the precedent suggests that all of our rights could be infringed.”

“Despite a not guilty verdict, we must remember that George Zimmerman is not truly free,” wrote Lisa Fritsch. “This trial will forever remain in his mind for his remaining days.”

“For too long, people such as the NAACP’s Ben Jealous and Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have spoke out in hate and ignorance and found placement in the media,” wrote Emery McClendon. “It’s time to stop the madness. We must turn the tide. If we put as much time into restoring our Constitution as we did into the Zimmerman trial, America would be a better place for all of us.”

Never heard of them? Cooper, it turns out, was once a staffer for Dick Armey and was charged with five counts of public corruption for exchanging gifts from Jack Abramoff for political favors. Fritsch, a Tea Partier and occassional Fox commenter, has ranted about the “diabolical liberal agenda…corrupting the black community.” McClendon, a self-described Tea Party activist in Iowa, has penned circuitous missives explaining why the Tea Party is not racist. (Why is the Tea Party not racist? Because “the tea parties are not picking on anyone because of color, ethnicity or race.”)

The three of them were writing for Project 21, a black conservative policy group. It’s not totally clear from their HTML website what it is they do, other than provide commentary, but they sure made a splash in 2005 when the Senate passed a resolution apologizing for not doing more to stop lynchings of black people. Project 21 dismissed the resolution, and called on people “not to wallow in apologies and regrets.” (This was a statement Fritsch, incidentally, helped to draft.) Mychal Massie, until recently the head of Project 21, once lambasted Al Sharpton, saying he had “hijacked” MLK’s message and “prostituted it for personal gain.” Today, many of the center’s policy papers are written by David Almasi, who heads the umbrella group to which Project 21 belongs and who is white. Read the rest in the New Republic.

Example of Tea Party News Network:

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