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CNN's Situation Room Charges: 'Racial Tinge to Tea Movement'

CNN's efforts to smear Obama critics as racist gained visibility on Monday's Situation Room when the usually more sensible Wolf Blitzer, with "RACIAL TINGE TO TEA MOVEMENT" as the on-screen heading, set up a story on how, "most disturbing," within the tea party crowds there's "a very small but vocal minority, they're targeting President Obama's race." Though reporter Elaine Quijano said "we have to emphasize by far most tea party protesters are not casting their arguments in what could be seen as a racial light," she nonetheless proceeded to treat as newsworthy how "a small but passionate minority is also voicing what some see as racist rhetoric."

In decrying the racism, CNN gave national cable air time to what she described as a "controversial image that's been circulating on the Web since July," a "doctored image circulating on the Internet and even some protesters signs like this one in Brighton, Michigan, portraying President Obama as a witch doctor." Brighton, Michigan? So, not at the more newsworthy big national event Saturday in DC I presume.

Quijano soon went to Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page who saw race as the common denominator: "People are not just mad at Obama. They're mad at Jesse Jackson, they're mad at Reverend Wright, they're made at Al Sharpton, they're mad at people who have nothing to do with Obama except they all happen to be black." Without questioning the supposition, Quijano warned: "Page says the vehement racial resistance that's emerged is another sign any notion of a post-racial society after Barack Obama's election was wishful thinking."

Maybe it's those using race to incriminate Obama critics and distract from their complaints on health care and spending, such as Page and CNN, who are the ones injecting race and marring dreams of a "post-racial society."

Earlier BiasAlert posts on CNN pushing the anti-Obama protesters as racist theme:

- CNN's Lemon Praises Maher for Raising Anti-Obama Racism: 'Finally Someone's Talking About This'

- CNN Zeroes-In on 'Dark Undercurrent' of Tea Parties

As a quick contrast, back in February of 2003 CNN ignored the radical-left and pro-communist affiliations of some anti-war protesters and instead celebrated their "diversity." CNN reporter Maria Hinojosa on a protest in Manhattan:

I have to tell you, it's an extraordinary - like New York, it's an extraordinarily diverse crowd. I have seen elderly men and women with mink coats carrying their posters. I have also seen children with their parents coming from public schools. I saw a sign with someone from the PTA of a public school. I have seen people who called themselves hippies. I have seen old anti-war folks who say that they have been coming to demonstrations since the 1960s, as well as high school students and college students who have never taken part in any demonstration who are now becoming part of the activity here.

From about 5:30 PM EDT during the Monday, September 14 Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER: They've come together under the tea party banner, but within the movement you're going to find individuals outraged over taxes, health reform, gun control and more. But, most disturbing, a very small but vocal minority, they're targeting President Obama's race. Let's go to CNN's Elaine Quijano. She's working this story for us. Elaine, what are we seeing?

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, Wolf, we have to emphasize by far most tea party protesters are not casting their arguments in what could be seen as a racial light, but a small group of demonstrators is using a controversial image that's been circulating on the Web since July. Within the larger tea party movement that's gained steam across the country, a small but passionate minority is also voicing what some see as racist rhetoric, including this doctored image circulating on the Internet and even some protesters signs like this one in Brighton, Michigan, portraying President Obama as a witch doctor. We took to the streets of Washington to get reaction.

WOMAN: I think it's disrespectful to the office of the President to portray him in this manner. It's racist.

SECOND WOMAN: This is appalling.

QUIJANO: How prevalent were the protesters carrying racially-charged messages? Difficult to quantify? CNN all platform journalist Jim Spellman spent weeks covering the tea party demonstrators as a whole.

JIM SPELLMAN: Only a handful of people seem to outwardly have racial issues with the President, but the more you talk to people, you could sense that it was part of a larger distrust.

QUIJANO: For their party tea party leaders disavow any racist views.

MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY ORGANIZER: I saw very little overt racism or anger, and those were on the fringes and were marginalized.

QUIJANO: They want attention focused on the role and reach of government into people's lives but say that controversial protesters have the right to speak their mind.

WILLIAMS: Part of America is that there are people who are bigoted, and, you know, you're never going to convince them not to be. You don't have to embrace them, but in this country you can't shut them up either.

QUIJANO: Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page sees the Obama presidency as a chance for some to lash out.

CLARENCE PAGE, DC-BASED CHICAGO TRIBUNE COLUMNIST: People are not just mad at Obama. They're mad at Jesse Jackson, they're mad at Reverend Wright, they're made at Al Sharpton, they're mad at people who have nothing to do with Obama except they all happen to be black.

QUIJANO: Page says the vehement racial resistance that's emerged is another sign any notion of a post-racial society after Barack Obama's election was wishful thinking.

PAGE: It's only the beginning of the process that we are able to live with leadership that may not look like us, may not come from the same background as us but is still part of this very diverse society.

QUIJANO: Now Mark Williams, the tea party organizer we talked to, notes there's been inflammatory rhetoric in statements at events like anti-war demonstrations in the past, burning flags and hanging effigies, he says. His point: that like other grass roots movements the tea party protesters are a cross-section of America.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center