NAACP vs. Tea Party: Racism Debate Heats Up as Sarah Palin Joins the Fray

"Those ideas that Tea Party people are racist and that we're trying to instigate a racist climate in this country, that's simply a lie. That's out and out falsehood," said Rev. C.L. Bryant, a former president of NAACP's Garland, Texas, chapter who is now a leading Tea Party activist.

"I have not heard one racial slur that came out of that march," said Bryant, referring to the Tea Party protest on Capitol Hill where members of Congress alleged racist comments. "Those were simply Americans who were protesting."

NAACP Vs. Tea Party

Even as Tea Party leaders and supporters fight back against charges of racism, the NAACP is explicitly calling on leaders like Palin, Kentucky GOP Senate hopeful Rand Paul and FreedomWorks chairman Dick Armey to take responsibility.

"Sarah Palin needs to have the courage to call out the racists amongst her supporters and let them know that she will not tolerate them," Jealous said. "What's divisive is calling a rally, having a whole bunch of bigots show up and welcoming them. ... The Tea Party needs to clean its own house as all responsible organizations do."

On Monday, in a fiery speech at the convention in Kansas City, Mo., Jealous challenged Paul to a debate on civil rights.

Paul, another high profile supporter of the Tea Party, came under fire in May for criticizing the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

"If we want to harbor in on private businesses and their policies, then you have to have the discussion about, 'Do you want to abridge the First Amendment as well,'" Paul said on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show. "If you decide that restaurants are publicly owned and not privately owned, then do you say that you should have the right to bring your gun into the restaurant, even though the owner of the restaurant says, well, no, we don't want to have guns in here."

Paul later said he supports the Act and opposes discrimination, but stood by his belief that the government doesn't have a right to tell private restaurant owners who they can and cannot serve.

The NAACP is demanding more answers.

"If you want to debate civil rights, and the Civil Rights Act, Rand Paul, my message to you is this: show the backbone and answer my challenge, set a date and I and the NAACP will be there," Jealous said Monday.

Support for the Tea Party movement among Americans remains divided. Twenty-seven percent of Americans support the movement, according to a May ABC News/Washington Post poll, but nearly as many Americans oppose it.

The poll also found that 57 percent of people who opposed the Tea Party suspected its members of racial prejudice specifically against Obama. Only 10 percent of Tea Party supporters expressed such a sentiment.

NAACP leaders have taken on the Tea Party individually in the past, but the organization has stepped up its efforts against the movement. In addition to jobs and the economy, much of this year's convention was dedicated to building momentum against the Tea Party.

The NAACP, in coordination with 170 other groups, including labor unions, is planning a protest march in Washington, D.C., Oct. 2 as the next step in building momentum against the Tea Party.

The "One Nation" march is designed as an antithesis to the Tea Party, and it's about "pulling America together and back to work," said NAACP spokeswoman Leila McDowell.

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