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Media must stop falsely accusing the Tea Party every time tragedy strikes

As Americans rightly turn their initial shock at the Colorado massacre into a search for meaning and remembrance, another story is unfolding.  It is not a tragedy nor should it overshadow the horrific events of Friday, but it has long-term consequences nonetheless. The persistent liberal bias by the mainstream media is having damning effect on the lives and political voice of those on the center right.

The bias reared its left leaning head in the hours after news of the Colorado shooting broke.  In an effort to assign blame and score a coup, ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos and reporter Brian Ross incorrectly tied the alleged Colorado shooter to the Tea Party.  Stephanopoulos called it “significant.”

What was significant was that the journalistic ethos of Stephanopoulos and Ross in reporting this fact barely reached the level of a fourth grader Googling Justin Beiber’s favorite color. 

As Stephanopoulos blithely tossed to weather, more enterprising reporters and bloggers quickly proved that ABC News had just linked the wrong man to a deadly event. Mea culpas followed, but the damage was done. The Tea Party was again associated with mass murder.

Dustin Stockton, knew all to well what that means. He was a Tea Party activist living in Arizona at the time of the Gabby Gifford shooting. In the hours and days following the horrific event, everyone from the New York Times to Gifford’s father incorrectly blamed her attack on the Tea Party.  The accusations were false but the image still stuck. Stockton and other Tea Partiers were sent threatening e-mails blaming him for that massacre saying, “I would get what was coming to me.”

Stockton is now the chief strategist for TheTeaParty.net and says the hatred toward him for his political views is still virulent. “I’m so tired of getting harassed and getting in arguments and turning people off because of what they think they know about the Tea Party,” said Stockton.  “I no longer say I’m with the Tea Party I just say I work in politics.”

The liberal media bias does not begin or end with tying the center right to mass murder. NPR’s former CEO accused the Tea Party of being not just racist and xenophobic but also “islamophobes.”  The CEO lost his job for the comments, but they resonated. Those same sentiments have been echoed far and wide in the media with a cursory Google search of  “Tea Party Racist” yielding more than three million results.

And it is the racism charges that have been most damning to those of us associated with center-right politics. 

The NAACP had a field day in 2009 seizing on the racism charges and issuing “Tea Party Nationalism” reports.  The liberal civil rights group even started a website called the teapartytracker.org designed to catch the racist Tea Partiers in the act. Never mind that the webpage is no longer available. The media gave near unchallenged access to the civil rights group to make their claims.

The Tea Party, being a decentralized and, let’s face it, overall poor funded band of Americans, has little ability to counter the attacks.  It’s why ABC News' Sam Donaldson could recently declare that the political right really opposes the president because he is black (and not, say, because he’s a tax and spend liberal) and be barely held accountable for it.

The bias against all things center right and particularly the Tea Party stuck and has helped to undercut the political legitimacy of the center-right.  Why would anyone listen to a Tea Partier discuss fiscal responsibility when the media says they’re just racists?  Why would anyone want to listen to us talk about free markets or economic freedom when they think we are linked to deadly mass shootings?

The racism charges hit black conservatives the worst.  Joshua Warren, a former Democrat and member of the First Coast Tea Party, says the Tea Party because the media has been so effective at painting the group as extreme, he has almost become invisible.

“The attacks are so overtop it’s unbelievable,” says Warren, who is African American.  “I’ve been spit at and called unspeakable names because of the stands that I take because they’re not the stands the black community is supposed to take.  You’re an outcast.”

Carl Boyd Jr., Nashville’s only African American conservative radio host, says the media’s continued biased against the political right have been damning for him. “The Black Democrats say you don’t care about the black. I get really accused in the family. They say I bump my head or lost my mind or sold out.  It used to bother me a little bit.”

Lloyd Marcus knows this well.  An African American who is a regular on the Tea Party speaking circuit says he too has become a social outcast among friends and neighbors.  “The black folks in my neighborhood snub me,” says the chairman of the Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama PAC. “I’ve had messages left by neighbors saying that I should be ashamed of myself for being a Tea Party activist.”

That shame also reigns down on activists’ family members as well, even if those relatives are not part of the political fray. Some people feel if the media is showing Tea Partiers as racist, bigoted monsters, it goes to figure their family must be too. 

Which is why I should not have been surprised this week when a neighbor I have never met mocked my crying toddler because he disliked my politics views.  Besides being horribly unsettling, it was telling. To that man, I wasn’t a neighborhood mom helping her child with a skinned knee, I was a racist monster and my family and I were going to be treated as such.

Sadly, that story is not unique, nor is it likely to stop any time soon thanks to the recklessness bias shown by ABC News. Stephanopoulos and Ross will probably get off with a wrist slap, but the Tea Party will not. Many of us on the center right will continue to be seen as politically illegitimate and less than human. Perhaps instead of offering lame apologies, Stephanopoulos and Ross can report on the “significance” of that.

Jennifer Stefano is a wife, mother and Tea Party Activist. She is the Pennsylvania State Director of Americans for Prosperity.