Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention: Somebody's Watching Me

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2010 12:24 PM

Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention: Somebody's Watching Me

RICHMOND -- In the 1996, former FBI agent Gary Aldrich published Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House . It was an account of his days running background checks for the Clinton White House, and like every pre-2001 book accusing the Clintons of strange things, it was a hit. Aldrich faded into the background after that, but he's emerged at the Tea Party Patriots Convention, under the banner of his Patrick Henry Center, as a punchy political veteran who can teach activists how to avoid being screwed by the media.

"This is a typical liberal," said Aldrich at his morning session, pointing to a slide of Hannibal Lecter. "They're some of the nastiest people you could possibly imagine." He switched up the Lecter photo with photos of enemy reporters, like Chris Matthews, "perky"Katie Couric, and Rachel Maddow, pausing briefly to make fun of Maddow's haircut. And on the way into the room, he said, he browbeat a reporter for filming an interview with a goofy-looking tea party activist who was carrying a gun. "That's what's going to show up on the nightly news," he said. His audience nodded their heads knowingly.

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And so Aldrich's advice to activists fit cleanly under the heading of "ways to seem paranoid." Don't travel alone, he said: He himself had advised a prominent Tea Party leader to stop traveling solo around the country. Choose friends wisely, because allies can betray you and leak to reporters. Demand conditions from the media before agreeing to interviews. Also, learn to use a gun, especially if you live in an open carry state. (The friction between this and his previous statement was not noted.)

Aldrich passed the microphone to two Tea Party activists who were cracking down in their own groups. One of them, Karen Hurd of the Hampton Roads Tea Party, informed the crowd that Facebook had been created by the designer of MyBarackObama.com (not quite true). "It's a leftist site," she said. She also warned them that Google products were untrustworthy because the company could pass on information from its clouds to investigators, and advised them to request that photos of their homes be removed from Google Maps.

The second activist, David Donis, didn't have more tips, but attempted to get people in the right frame of mind.

"This is a war as real as the Cold War was," he said.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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