Washington (AP) - Black members of the tea party movement on Wednesday rejected charges that the group's activists are racist, saying they oppose President Barack Obama because of his policies not his skin color.
The members gathered at a Washington news conference in the wake of allegations about its rank and file, heightened by the recent split with a Tea Party Express leader who had posted a letter on his blog written from "Colored People" to Abraham Lincoln. The post suggested that black people would choose slavery over having to do real work.
The black members said the racism that has been attributed to the tea party movement came from outsiders who infiltrated the groups to discredit their work and it should be rejected.
"These people do not oppose Barack Obama because of his skin color. They oppose him because of his policies," said Lloyd Marcus, a spokesman for the group.
The NAACP last month approved a resolution condemning racism within the tea party movement and called on activists to "repudiate the racist element and activities" within the political movement.
At the news conference, several members assailed Obama and the Democrats, often in harsh terms.
"Democrats have re-enslaved America," said Kevin Jackson, president of the Black Conservative Coalition. He said tea party activists, if successful, would reduce the size of government and set in motion another Emancipation Proclamation, the document that President Abraham Lincoln signed that effectively ended slavery.
"This time, even the white folks get freed," said Jackson, who accused Obama of viewing fellow blacks as "mongrels."
Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan declined to respond to the tea party leaders' criticism. The White House also declined to comment.
Other tea party speakers called Democrats white supremacists and elitists. Conservative Moms for America leader Mary Baker said Democrats were pushing "anti-God politics."
"Destroy America. That's what the D in Democrat Party means," she said.
Alan Keyes, who unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate against Obama in 2004, said the president "got elected on a virulent form of racism" by exploiting his race during the 2008 campaign.
The Tea Party Express, one of dozens of libertarian-leaning and anti-tax groups, organized the meeting with reporters to denounce racism and then accused its opponents of using allegations of racism to censor dissent.
Black members of the tea party movement are disputing allegations of racism within the grass-roots movement and say the claims are merely an attempt to discredit their work.