McClatchy Co., which filed for bankruptcy protection this week, played a role in one of the most effective and damaging hoaxes ever deployed in the media’s war against the conservative grassroots: the “Tea Party N-word.”
In March 2010, thousands of Tea Party activists descended on the U.S. Capitol to protest as the House of Representatives, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), voted to approve Obamacare, over bipartisan opposition.
Democrats accused the Tea Party demonstrators of using the “N-word” to attack black members of Congress walking into and out of the Capitol, and McClatchy reported it:
Demonstrators outside the U.S. Capitol, angry over the proposed health-care bill, shouted “n-” yesterday at Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia congressman and civil rights icon who was nearly beaten to death during an Alabama march in the 1960s.
The protesters also shouted obscenities at other members of the Congressional Black Caucus, lawmakers said.
“They were shouting, sort of harassing,” Lewis said. “But, it’s OK, I’ve faced this before. It reminded me of the ’60s. It was a lot of downright hate and anger and people being downright mean.”
But there was never any actual evidence that happened.
At one point, Pelosi, along with several members of the Congressional Black Caucus and other Democrats, staged a provocative march through the demonstration, as she wielded the giant Speaker’s gavel. Their goal was twofold: first to draw parallels between Obamacare and the civil rights movement; second, to provoke Tea Party demonstrators into ugly confrontations that would enable Democrats to call the movement “racist,” also fulfilling the civil rights analogy.
There was one problem: though the Tea Party protesters jeered Pelosi and the other Democrats, there was no racism.
This reporter was actually present at the first day of demonstrations, and saw no racism whatsoever from participants.
Andrew Breitbart offered $10,000, and then $100,000, to the United Negro College Fund if anyone could provide video proof of anyone shouting the “N-word” at the demonstration. Despite the thousands of people present at the protest, including journalists, many equipped with cameras, no proof was ever found and the reward was never collected.
McClatchy never corrected its article, and the image of the Tea Party as “racist” stuck in the public imagination.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.