Black political activists who also call themselves members of the Tea Party movement on Wednesday rebuked charges of racism running rampant in the group.
At a news conference in Washington, the black members asserted that the Tea Party is not at all racist and that the accusations come from outsiders trying to discredit and sabotage the movement.
"The injection of race has come from those who want to destroy us," said Selena Owens, an regular speaker with the Tea Party Express, one of the many libertarian, anti-tax groups in the movement that organized the news conference.
Herman Cain, a radio talk show host, said the accusations are "hurled at us to divide us and to deflect attention away from the failed policies of this congress and this president."
Kevin Jackson, author of "The Big Black Lie" added, "There are two kinds of people I have never seen at a Tea Party: a racist and anyone who owns a yacht. And if they do own a yacht, they pay their taxes."
The Tea Party Express organized the news conference to refute accusations of racism that have been heightened by the recent split with former group leader Mark Williams. Recently, Williams posted a letter on his blog written from "Colored People" to Abraham Lincoln, which suggested that black people would choose slavery over having to do real work.
"Our slowness to split with Mark should by no means condone racism. It was just out of loyalty to our friend," said William Owens, a black conservative author who has also been a featured speaker on past Tea Party Express tours.
The letter Williams wrote on his blog immediately led to a war of words between him and the NAACP, or National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which specifically called Williams a racist and suggested there are many more inside the Tea Party movement.
The black activists at Wednesday's event were at some times dismissive of the NAACP, and at other times outright hostile toward the organization.
"I don't think the NAACP are even relevant anymore," said Tim Johnson, vice chairman of the North Carolina GOP. "I think they just did that to get some news coverage."
Niger Innis, a spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality was more direct.
"I have nothing but respect for the tradition of the NAACP, but I have nothing but contempt for the current leadership and tactics of the current leadership," he said. "There's still a need for the [group], but not if they continue to let themselves be prostituted by some elements of the Democratic party."
When asked about an incident where Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a black Democrat from Missouri, was allegedly spit on during a Tea Party rally on Capitol Hill last march, Robert Broadus, who is running for a U.S. congressional seat in Maryland, said, "It never happened."
Innis added:"There's no evidence, and we are a country of laws."