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Steele defends Tea Party from racism charge

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele is defending the Tea Party movement from accusations of racism.

Delegates to the annual convention of the NAACP this week accused Tea Party activists of tolerating bigotry and approved a resolution condemning extremism within the movement.

"We felt the time had come to stand up and say, 'It's time for the tea party to be responsible members of this democracy and make sure they don't tolerate bigots or bigotry among their members,'" Ben Jealous, president of the Baltimore-based organization, said before the debate, according to the Associated Press.

"We don't have a problem with the tea party's existence,” Jealous said. “We have an issue with their acceptance and welcoming of white supremacists into their organizations."

Steele, the first African-American to head the Republican National Committee, issued a statement Wednesday about what he described as “recent statements claiming the Tea Party movement is racist.” He said such statements “are not only destructive, they are not true.”“Tea Party activists are your mom or dad, your local grocer, banker, hairdresser or doctor,” the former lieutenant governor of Maryland said in statement. “They are a diverse group of passionate Americans who want to ensure that our nation returns to founding principles that honor the Constitution, limit government’s role in our lives, and support policies that empower free markets and free enterprise. Enough with the name-calling.”

The NAACP, in a story on its website, says the resolution does not condemn the entire Tea Party movement as racist. As presented to delegates meeting in Kansas City, the resolution called for the NAACP to "educate its membership and the community that this movement is not just about higher taxes and limited government," according to the AP.

The resolution suggested that something could evolve "and become more dangerous for that small percentage of people that really think our country has been taken away from them."

It was not clear whether the original resolution was amended during the debate, which took place mostly behind closed doors. To become NAACP policy, it must be approved by the organization’s national board of directors, which is scheduled to consider it in October.

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