Tea party officials debunk racism claims

SUWANEE -- Tea party officials debunked the NAACP's allegations of racism Friday with a press conference with one of the most outspoken black activists in Georgia, Herman Cain.

With the attention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People statement, members of the Georgia Tea Party Patriots held a press conference in Suwanee Friday.

"It is not racist driven, and it is not a racism motivated organization," said Cain, a conservative radio personality, who has been involved in the movement for more than a year.

He said the NAACP has "lost its relevance. "They are looking for their relevance, in my opinion, in the wrong place," he said. "It serves as a distraction from the failed policies of the administration and the failed leadership of this Congress."

Cain said he saw some racially divisive signs at early events, but they were denounced. Since then, he said, the most negative feedback he has had has come from blacks calling him a "sellout" and other derogatory terms.

"I want the NAACP to call out real racism," said Julianne Thompson, a state coordinator for the group.

State Rep. Melvin Everson, the first black Republican to win a contested state election who spoke at the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots' first event last year, said the only time he has felt threatened for speaking out at the events was by a Black Panther trying to get him to miss a rally.

"Everywhere I've gone, they have been peaceful protests," he said of events aimed at addressing concerns about decisions from President Barack Obama and Congress. "It has nothing to do with (the president's) pigmentation. It's all about his policies."

Everson said many African-Americans attend the events, but the media often does not portray that part of the crowd.

While tea party activists support free market principals and limited government, Thompson said the charge of racism has come from the NAACP because "they are on the losing side of an economic and political argument."