On Wednesday's American Morning, CNN's Ed Lavandera focused on the "overwhelmingly white" turnout at the rallies sponsored by the Tea Party Express organization and played up the criticisms that there is an "anti-minority undertone" at the demonstrations.
Lavandera, who is covering the Tea Party Express' cross-country tour, highlighted the race issue from the beginning of his report, which first aired 13 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour: "The crowds turning out for the Tea Party Express rallies are overwhelmingly white. Is this lack of diversity a problem for the Tea Party movement? We're taking a closer look."
The correspondent noted some of the apparently "subtle efforts to make the tea party appear diverse," such as a hip hop performance and speeches by black tea party activist Lloyd Marcus. Marcus stated that "there's not a lot of black folks here, basically, because they haven't seen the light yet. They are still hypnotized by the first black or African-American president. But they haven't really looked at the man and what he's doing." This assertion is supported by a Gallup poll from earlier in March that found that President Obama's approval rating among blacks is at 89%, down slightly from 96% in August 2009.
But instead of focusing on this statistic as a possible cause for the lack of minority turnout at tea parties, Lavandera hinted that racism was actually to blame for this phenomenon:
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Critics argue there's an anti-minority undertone to these rallies. One anti-tea party protester lashed out at a campaigning candidate about the issue.When the CNN replayed the correspondent's report during the 3 pm Eastern hour of their Rick's List program, an on-screen graphic bluntly stated, "'Not A Lot of Black Folks Here:' Tea Party Express crowds show little diversity."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: Other than the people that are covering the story here, the only people I see are retired white people.
LAVANDERA: At the Tea Party Express kickoff rally, one woman carried a sign with a stuffed monkey that read, 'Send Obama back to Kenya.' Tea party activists signs also rail against immigration reform with a tone that could offend Latinos. Tea party activists, though, say attempts to portray the group as racist or not open to welcoming minorities is a biased, unfair attack.
MARK WILLIAMS, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: Don't believe the crock you're reading in some media about racism. I don't see the lack of diversity at all.
LAVANDERA: Tea party chairman Mark Williams argues the movement is incredibly diverse, and says there are no specific efforts to reach out to minorities.
LAVANDERA (on-camera): So there's no sense that you, maybe, need to go out and target black people, Hispanic people, to bring them into the fold.
WILLIAMS: All they need to do is read the Constitution and they'll come find us.
This liberal slant against the tea parties isn't surprising at CNN. Almost a year ago, former correspondent Susan Roesgen slammed the movement as "anti-government...anti-CNN...and not really family viewing." Later that year, CNN journalist Jim Spellman tried to portray the participants at the Tea Party Express's cross-country bus tour last summer as a bunch of extremists.