One of the most prominent men in the tea party movement, Tea Party Express spokesperson and former chair Mark Williams, is abandoning the group he helped propel into the role of the tea party’s public face.
“Over a month ago, Williams stepped down as Chairman of the organization to pursue other activities, but still offered to remain available as a spokesperson as needed in the future,” TPE spokesperson Levi Russell said in a statement to reporters today. “Today, he went further to completely cut his ties to the Tea Party Express.”
In his resignation letter to the TPE, Williams says he left the group after the past week’s public battle with the NAACP made him too hot to handle.
“I feel compelled to separate myself from any further involvement with the Tea Party Express so that I can pursue other interests,” Williams wrote, “and to free the tea party movement from any more distraction based on my personal comments or blogs.”
Williams became the subject of intense criticism from inside the tea party — as well as serious scrutiny from the media — after he published a “satirical” post about the NAACP on his personal blog mocking the organization for using the word “colored” in its name. Most — including other tea party leaders — viewed the post as racist and offensive.
In his resignation letter today. Williams refused to apologize for the blog post, claiming that the kerfuffle it caused came from a media-driven reaction, not what he wrote.
“The media coverage over a recent satirical posting on my personal MarkTalk.com blog risks injuring the Tea Party Express, the tea party movement as a whole, and the people in this movement who I respect and admire so much,” he wrote. “It has become increasingly unacceptable that the media and our domestic enemies continue to anoint me as the official voice of a massively diverse and broad-based movement.”
But the blog post was not the only thing that caused Williams to face criticism from fellow tea partiers. The TPE itself — founded by Republican consultants as a fundraising vehicle for conservatives — has long been a source of frustration for some tea partiers, who view the group as something of a poseur on the tea party scene. Williams was the brash public face of the TPE, prone to public statements that were, at best, impolitic.
Following this month’s NAACP resolution calling on tea party leaders to repudiate racism in the ranks of the movement, Williams took the group on, stating, among other things, that the NAACP’s leaders “make more money off of race than any slave trader ever.”
On July 18, the Tea Party Federation called on the Tea Party Express to reject Williams and apologize for his rhetoric. That began series of attacks on Williams by other tea party leaders that eventually, it seems, led to Williams’ resignation from the TPE.
It’s unclear if Williams’ exit from the group will stop criticism of the TPE by other tea partiers. The group remains a top-down organization run by political consultants and, so far, has not apologized for Williams’ racially-tinged speech.
But as the TPE’s Joe Wierzbicki told me yesterday, the group isn’t really concerned what other tea partiers think of it. Money talks, Wierzbicki says, and when it comes to putting resources in candidate hands, the TPE is still getting the job done.
“No, I don’t think too many candidates are going to turn away our support when they know that our membership is the most actively engaged - politically - of any of the tea party groups,” Wierzbicki told me.
Read Mark Williams’ full resignation letter below:
“I feel compelled to separate myself from any further involvement with the Tea Party Express so that I can pursue other interests and to free the tea party movement from any more distraction based on my personal comments or blogs.
The media coverage over a recent satirical posting on my personal MarkTalk.com blog risks injuring the Tea Party Express, the tea party movement as a whole, and the people in this movement who I respect and admire so much. It has become increasingly unacceptable that the media and our domestic enemies continue to anoint me as the official voice of a massively diverse and broad-based movement.
This nation is in crisis, and beyond the struggling economy and suffocating deficits, is what I consider to be the most troubling development recently: this nation’s slide towards socialism and abandonment to the fundamental Constitutional principles that have made America great. I do not wish to be used as ammunition against our own cause so to that end I am removing myself from the equation and severing ties to the Tea Party Express.
Ronald Reagan so correctly and eloquently explained that America is truly mankind’s best hope for freedom. Our respect for the individual rights and freedoms is unmatched around the globe yet our politicians in Washington seem determined to change this legacy of freedom. We are in a war for the future of this country and the Left and their allies in the news media have decided to use my personal comments and views as a weapon to injure the tea party movement and conservative activists. I will simply not allow them to do this.
I have so much respect and admiration for all of you at the Tea Party Express and the tea party activists I have gotten to know and work with across this great nation. I am going to continue to fight on the side of liberty but it is clear that doing so with any affiliation with the Tea Party Express is not the best way to do so.
I do however fully intend to continue to fight in the spirit of and for the causes of the Tea Party Movement.
We have a lot of work to do between now and November and I know that the Tea Party Express will continue to serve as a leading voice for the millions of Americans who are determined to take their country back.”