The Upshot

Biden: Tea Party isn’t racist

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In an interview with ABC’s This Week, Vice President Joe Biden says neither he nor President Obama believes the Tea Party is a "racist organization," but he acknowledged some elements of the movement have "expressed racist views."

"I wouldn’t characterize the Tea Party as racist," Biden said.

"There individuals who are either members of or on the periphery of some of ... their protests that have expressed really unfortunate comments. (But) I don't believe, the president doesn't believe that the Tea Party is a racist organization."

Their views, Biden said, are "very conservative."

"(We have) very different views on government and a whole lot of things," he said. "But it is not a racist organization."

His remarks come just a few days after the NAACP approved a resolution accusing the Tea Party of approving of racist elements within their organization—a charge that prompted the Tea Party to accuse the NAACP of racism. (Click here for the Upshot’s definitive explainer on the back and forth.)

On Meet the Press this morning, Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who is overseeing the Senate's re-election committee, said it's "slanderous" to accuse the Tea Party of racism. "There is no basis for it," he said.

But Cornyn pointedly dodged a question when asked if tea party movement Republican candidates like Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sharron Angle in Nevada that are "too extreme." "These are citizens who should not be demonized or marginalized," he said.  "These are people who are concerned about the direction of the country."

Rep. Pete Sessions, chairman of the House GOP campaign committee, said it’s not the movement that's extreme, but rather they are concerned about an "exteme" agenda in Washington. The movement, he claimed, is bipartisan: "one-third Democrats, one-third Republicans and one-third independents." (Data, however, shows that tea party activists come from traditionally Republican areas of the country and so far tea party electioneering has been focused on Republican primary elections and supporting Republican candidates.)

Asked if there should be a separate House caucus for the Tea Party, Sessions didn't answer.

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