Judson Phillips Coulda Been a Contender

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 7 2010 3:53 PM

Judson Phillips Coulda Been a Contender

I posted an item yesterday on the news that Tea Party Nation, the group run by the main planner of the February National Tea Party Convention, had called for Sarah Palin to run for RNC chair. My question was whether Tea Party Nation was really a serious enough group to make this play. And I had another question: Is TPN's leader Judson Phillips, who mostly makes news for incendiary comments on the blog or the radio, a "Tea Party leader"? I quoted two activists who said he wasn't.

Phillips responded by attacking me:

I have read Weigel’s piece and I have to laugh. Is Weigel actu­ally a jour­nal­ist or is he sim­ply a hack blog­ger? I sim­ply join the long list of con­ser­v­a­tives Weigel wants to bad mouth. On the Journo­list, he fre­quently bad­mouthed Rush Lim­baugh, Matt Drudge, William F. Buck­ley,* Pat Buchanan, Newt Gin­grich and Glenn Beck. Weigel has never met a con­ser­v­a­tive that he liked, so why should I be any different?

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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This is odd, because I didn't actually say what I thought of Phillips. I interviewed him multiple times at the convention and have e-mailed him since, and he's quotable and easy to work with. But I spend a lot of time talking to other Tea Party groups and have found that groups Tea Party Patriots, Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks, and Americans for Prosperity -- all of whom skipped his convention -- don't find the need to work with TPN or Phillips.

They never have. When Phillips's convention was getting off the ground, Luke O'Brien profiled him and uncovered a number of Tennessee Tea Party activists who fretted that donations to Tea Party Nation didn't go where they were supposed to, and that Phillips would go out of his way to make inflammatory, attention-getting statements even when they told him not to. Since the convention, TPN has failed to close the deal on two follow-up events. Mark Skoda, the Memphis Tea Party whiz who worked media for the Nashville event, moved on to other projects. The Tea Party Nation web site has slightly fewer than 36,000 members. By contrast, Americans for Prosperity claims to have around 1.5 million supporters. It's just tough to take this information and conclude that Phillips is a leader who represents the movement when he speaks.

Anyway, though, he continued.

This clown describes the views of the Amer­i­can peo­ple as "moronic." Funny, I think that is a pretty accu­rate opin­ion as to his views.  All of this belies the ques­tion, why does any­one take David Weigel seriously?

A Tea Party leader probably has better things to do with his time than angrily engage in psychological projection.

*I think Phillips is referring to a leaked e-mail in which I wrote that Pat Buchanan was purged from the conservative movement by Buckley. I didn't say anything negative about Buckley.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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