Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
Tea Party Nation President Judson Phillips
As buzz builds over the upcoming National Tea Party Convention, so has the backlash.
The convention’s organizer, the Tea Party Nation, reports word of the convention has hit “the liberal blogosphere,” prompting a blast of feedback filled with hate, derision and obscenity.
“We had heard a few days ago that the left was going to hit TPN. Today they did,” TPN President Judson Phillips told WND last week. “Wave after wave of liberal joined TPN and began posting inappropriate content.”
Phillips said TPN has been forced to take the only action available, banning troublemakers from posting on the organization’s website and limiting comment privileges to administrator-approved members.
“We banned over 100 liberals from the site today who came in just to make trouble,” Phillips said. “We received a large number of very obscene emails from these people.”
As WND reported, the first national tea party convention will be held Feb. 4 to Feb. 6 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and WND’s Joseph Farah among the featured speakers.
Word of the event, however, has rallied not only the tea partiers themselves but also their determined detractors.
WND reported over the weekend, for example, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow likened tea partiers to a spectacle reminiscent of “Hee Haw” zombies.
On the TPN message boards, Phillips told WND, a wave of people began signing up to “flame” the tea partiers, posting insults, racist remarks and profanity. One poster even logged onto a blog attached to the TPN site and uploaded what Phillips described as “a disgusting pornographic image.”
But when someone logged onto the TPN message boards and began making comments under the name “Rachel Maddow,” it stirred a hornet’s nest – both online and at MSNBC, where the real Maddow hosts a talk show.
Phillips told WND that after the suspension of the Maddow account – which he said was registered to someone with a MSNBC e-mail address – his organization sent an e-mail to its subscribers warning them of the Maddow intrusion and reminding them of the purpose and decorum intended for the message boards.
“If you look at comments on, say, USA Today, and you’re a conservative and post on there, they’ll flame you and say the nastiest things,” Phillips told WND. “But we’re conservatives, and we want a place we can discuss issues without liberals screaming ‘teabaggers’ and disrupting with offensive comments.”
Almost immediately, however, the e-mail was picked up by Talking Points Memo, Democratic Underground and left-leaning websites, which ignited a firestorm of new registrants on TPN logging in to condemn and criticize.
Phillips suspects it may have been a set-up, a planned intrusion by the “Maddow” registrant to generate attention. If so, it worked.
Shortly thereafter, MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann and the real Rachel Maddow teamed up to scoff at TPN, the former accusing TPN of “tea party paranoia.”
Video of the Olbermann segment can be seen below:
Phillips told WND the Maddow incident wasn’t the only case of a commenter using a celebrity name: Someone also signed up under the name “Pat Robertson” to post a mocking comment about keeping the movement “pure” by limiting it to only Christians.
Phillips, named one of Tennessee’s top 25 political players in 2009, was one of the original tea-party organizers in February 2009 following CNBC anchor Rick Santelli’s outburst from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. He has helped organize numerous tea parties and mobilized Tennessee taxpayers in the last year with rallies reaching crowds of more than 10,000 people.
The national tea party convention – in addition to Palin and Farah – will also feature prominent speakers such as Rep Michele Bachmann, R- Minn.; Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; WND columnist Judge Roy Moore; Phil Valentine, popular radio talk-show host and author of “The Conservative Handbook“; and Fox News Political Analyst Angela McGlowan.
The Tea Party Express will arrive in Nashville for the convention. Additional sponsors of the conference include American Liberty Alliance, Tea Party Emporium, the Leadership Institute, National Taxpayers Union, American Majority, Surge USA and Eagle Forum.
“Tea Party Nation doesn’t claim to be the leader of the tea party movement; we’re just a part of the movement,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to work together in 2010 because if we want to beat Obama, Pelosi and Reid this year, we cannot be divided. That’s the biggest thing I want to see come out of this convention – folks getting to know one another and working together, as opposed to some of the regrettable splits we’ve seen over the last few months.”
The convention is open to citizens who have taken leadership roles in the tea party movement, including those who would like to be more involved this year. Tea Party Nation has allocated 600 tickets for the convention and 1,100 for the banquet with Palin. Tickets are available at the National Tea Party Convention website, and Phillips said they are selling quickly.