Did the Tea Party win the debate over the N-word accusations? 

At the March 20th Tea Party protest in Washington, Rep. Andre Carson, D-Ind., Rep. John Lewis D-Ga., and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver D-Mo. accused protesters of of yelling the N-word some 15 times at the black lawmakers. Since then, no proof that this happened has emerged despite the presence of numerous cameras. Well, Tea Partiers pushed back against the claims of racism hard — and an article in the Christian Science Monitor, “Why ‘tea party’ defenders won’t let N-word claims rest,” suggests they have had some success at convincing the mainstream media they were wrong to run with the accusations sans evidence:

“A bright line was crossed on the 20th,” says Christina Botteri, a spokeswoman for the Tea Party Federation. “The left constantly attacks conservatives as racist, as dumb, as evil, but what happened on the 20th is a sitting congressman, with the full voice and credibility of the House of Representatives, accused a group of citizens with whom he philosophically disagrees of assault and then refused to help find the persons responsible. They need to help us find the people responsible or apologize for making it up.”

Conservative Web publisher Andrew Breitbart has accused the congressmen of lying about the incident in an effort to tar the tea party movement. He has gone so far as to offer a $100,000 donation to the United Negro College Fund for proof. Though it appears from footage that at least some of the congressmen’s entourage were filming the walk, no one has claimed the bounty.

“[This] is a slander with real-world repercussions,” Mr. Breitbart asserts on BigJournalism.com.

Some in the mainstream press have conceded tea partyers may have a point. Washington Post reporter David Weigel has said the March 20 incident is a “paradigm shift” that shows conservatives how the media accept attacks on the right without doing due diligence. Politico’s Ben Smith, who keeps a close eye on the tea party movement, Tweeted a response to Breitbart about the lack of takers on the bounty: “I think you’ve pretty much won this one, no?”

And CNN senior political analyst David Gergen, in an April 14 television appearance, said the incident “was an important moment … a searing moment during the health-care debate…. Many of us took it as sort of like, that’s what happened. Now, if it didn’t happen, I think it’s important to know that.”

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Doug Graham

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