Tea Party Infiltration Done Wrong

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 9 2010 9:03 AM

Tea Party Infiltration Done Wrong

It's rarely convincing when Tea Party activists brush off attacks on the movement by claiming that the bad apples at their rallies are really agents provocateurs . That's just too convenient. Sometimes, the people who make you look bad actually are part of your movement. But a videographer at this weekend's Fancy Farm political celebration in Kentucky hounded a man wearing Rand Paul swag and holding up a racist anti-immigrant sign, badgering him to reveal who he was. The cameraman caught back up with him when, later, the man walked with supporters Paul's opponent, Jack Conway.

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I asked Conway's campaign whether the man was a staffer or volunteer, and I'll update when I get an answer, but this is sort of a godsend—a liberal trying to make Tea Partiers look bad. That's really not new, and it may be more silly than malicious. Liberal counter-protesters with ironic signs often crash events in D.C.; in the Bush years, the pro-war Protest Warriors used to infiltrate rallies and wave signs that made liberals look stupid. But Tea Party organizers are increasingly obsessed with ousting liberal pranksters from their events and proving to the media that there's no actual racism in their own movement. Thus, video cameras; thus, stuff like this.

UPDATE: Conway's campaign tells me the man had nothing to do with the campaign, and that staffers don't know who he is. I buy that -- like I said, stunt-minded political junkies do these kinds of things.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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