MSNBC’s David Shuster on Wednesday used the victory of Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts as another opportunity to trash the tea party movement. Teasing an interview with one of the organizers, he smeared, "The first anniversary of President Obama's inauguration. The Hitler mustaches and the Joker and everything else." [Audio available here.]
Talking with the grassroots director of FreedomWorks, Brendan Steinhauser, Shuster rejected the notion that the tea partiers are part of the political center. The host derided, "Right, but is it the dead center when you see signs like the signs that we just showed that are easy to find at a tea party protest of Obama as a Marxist? Obama as a socialist? Obama with a Hitler mustache?" A feisty Steinhauser repeatedly knocked down Shuster’s talking points: "Well, no. Those signs with Barack Obama as Hitler, that comes from Lyndon LaRouche PAC. It’s clearly on the sign and that’s a left-wing guy."
Regarding the Senate election in the Bay State, Shuster lamented, "Brown's win could be good news for the tea party movement, which didn't seem as frightening to independent voters in Massachusetts as Democrats had hoped."
The cable host kept returning to the subject of extreme signs. MSNBC played video throughout the segment of Obama-as-Hitler images. Steinhauser again challenged Shuster on the double standards of conservative and liberal protests: "But, what you haven't reported is that the anti-war movement in Washington was organized by International ANSWER, a communist front group. But, no one reported on that because it didn't fit the paradigm."
The cable news journalist bizarrely responded, "Well, also because it's not factually accurate." This is completely wrong. ANSWER is a communist group and it did organize anti-war protests in 2002 and 2003.
A transcript of the January 20 segment, which aired at 10:23am EST, follows:
DAVID SHUSTER: Coming up, the tea party movement is having more protests today. The first anniversary of President Obama's inauguration. The Hitler mustaches and the Joker and everything else. But, there is something of a civil war brewing in the movement itself. We will talk with one of the movement's top organizers.
DAVID SHUSTER: The Republican message out of Massachusetts today, Democrats need to be very afraid.
SCOTT BROWN: When there's trouble in Massachusetts, rest assured there's trouble everywhere and they know it.
SHUSTER: Brown’s win could be good news for the tea party movement which didn't seem as frightening to independent voters in Massachusetts as Democrats had hoped. Today, the tea partiers will try to leverage Scott Brown’s victory last night in protest marking president Obama's one-year anniversary in office. On social networks like Facebook, the tea party movement promoted today's nationwide tax strike. Joining us now to talk about the immediate future of the tea party is Brendan Steinhauser, the grassroots director for FreedomWorks. Brandon, last night Scott Brown did not mention tea partiers, he didn't even mention the Republican Party. Does that matter to you?
BRENDAN STEINHAUSER (FreedomWorks): Well, I don't think it matters at all. I think the election was clear. This was a candidate that ran on limited principles and the tea party movement represents limited government. It’s opposed to ig government. The message was delivered loud and clear that regardless of what party you belong to, if you’re going to be a winning candidate in 2010 you've got to focus on limited government, fiscal issues.
SHUSTER: And winning organizations sometimes need to avoid civil wars. There is something, though, of a civil war brewing among the tea partiers between this Tea Party Patriot, the original group, and the Tea Party Express and a woman named Amy Cramer was one of the original founders is now being sued. And she wrote to a bunch of supporters, "It truly saddens me the Tea Party Patriot leadership is expending an enormous amount of time and resources to pursue a frivolous lawsuit against me." What is this about?
STEINHAUSER: I haven't really followed the warfare that's going on between the different organizations, the different people. But, look, when you have a massive movement of this size, you're going to get disagreement, issues that arise based on the direction of the movement. You’re going to have personal things. There’s a lot of people involved in this, but that’s the power of this movement. Because there's no one person in charge, there's no one organization in charge, we can kind of all figure out as we go along and we can still make an impact. So, yes, there's going to be disagreements over policy. Disagreements over the direction that this movement should go and, yes, personal squabbles. [Video of signs: "Obama has a prescription for America" with the Communist hammer and sickle.] But, in the end, we’re going to make an we're going to make an impact. We showed it last night. We’re going to show it with the Marco Rubio/Charlie Crist primary in Florida. We’re going to show it Pennsylvania and Nevada and across the country. We have a 50 state strategy to win and it’s based on the idea that our issues are the dead center of American politics. This is not the far right only.
SHUSTER: But, is it the dead center? Right, but is it the dead center when you see signs like the signs that we just showed that are easy to find at a tea party protest of Obama as a Marxist? Obama as a socialist? Obama with a Hitler mustache? Do you think that's the political center?
STEINHAUSER: Well, no. Those signs with Barack Obama as Hitler, that comes from Lyndon LaRouche PAC. It’s clearly on the sign and that’s a left-wing guy. So, that’s someone that comes to the tea party who tries to recruit.
SHUSTER: Brandon, it’s not just Lyndon LaRouche. We've had people at these protests, at these movements, you know, the Holocaust pictures of the remains from the Holocaust. I mean, there was the sign that Congressman Steve King signed last fall that said, "Kenya Trust Obama," which gets to the idea some people Obama on the right is not a legitimate U.S. citizen and is secretly a Muslim terrorist. And, again, the tea party hasn't condemned the signs.
STEINHAUSER: Well, you’re picking one or two signs out of hundreds of thousands. Not only have you talked about the size of the crowd and made it seem like there’s only a few hundred protesters, then you go and find two or three signs to make the whole movement look bad.
SHUSTER: It’s not just two or three signs.
STEINHAUSER: But, what you haven't reported is that the anti-war movement in Washington was organized by International ANSWER, a communist front group. But, no one reported on that because it didn't fit the paradigm.
SHUSTER: Well, also because it's not factually accurate. And the fact is that these signs are popping up at your rallies. But, let’s move beyond this. Who is the tea party's next target and why do you think, for example, if it is Charlie Crist that going to the right in a place like Florida is a wise political strategy?
STEINHAUSER: Well, I do think the tea party movement will be involved in both political parties. They’re going to be looking at primaries across the country. I think that in Florida, for example, you’re looking at- in Florida, for example, you have a candidate like Marco Rubio who is running on our issues, lower taxes, less government, more freedom. This is the type of candidate that can win. And, again, this isn't the far right. We're looking at these polls. Independents are coming out in support of these candidates running on fiscal issues on limited government so that's very much the dead center of American politics and a winning message for all candidates of both parties.
SHUSTER: Right. But they're also distancing themselves from the far right elements and some of the tea party elements and, in fact, you never heard any of that from Scott Brown. But in any case, Brendan Steinhauser, it's an interesting movement and a fascinating story.