Monday, April 19, 2010

Letter to the SI Advance

April 4, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen;

When I turned to your Sunday Perspective page and read the hit piece on the Tea Party movement, I could only sit in stunned silence.

Whatever possessed those of you who make these decisions to run such a horrible, demeaning and FALSE story? Your concern for responsible journalism has been shown, in one simple stroke, to be non-existent - and I am a person that has defended your newspaper time and time again.

Many of you know many of us in the Staten Island Tea Party - does this race-baiting drivel reflect your opinion of us? You have covered our events; you have seen the folks who participate: they are your relatives, neighbors and friends. They are the constituents of our elected officials. We are invited to the offices of our Congressman and Councilmembers to discuss policy and politics. We have been invited to YOUR offices to discuss political matters. We are invited to political clubs from all over the island to discuss the meaning of the Tea Party movement in America. We are well-received wherever we go, and discuss issues of the day in a reasonable and knowledgeable fashion.

Do we look and sound like racists to you?

Colbert King's observations are grounded in NO reality - the essay is a poorly-reasoned mess of race-baiting and inaccuracies. The author makes fantastic connections between us and Southern racists from fifty years ago, and yet your screaming headline purports it to be the real, eye-opening truth.

He states as fact that "some shouted racial and homophobic epithets at members of Congress," yet not one single shred of evidence exists to support these charges. Then, further on, he writes that because many have pointed out that the charges were patently untrue and probably hurled for political reasons, the Tea Party movement is suddenly akin to the 60's Klansman who accused the "nigras" of bombing themselves to attract attention.

Apparently, Colbert King believes that we should listen to these outright lies and smears and just sit down and shut up? So Colbert King believes that speaking up to defend ourselves, to point out that these accusations are false, somehow proves that we are no better than the Ku Klux Klan?

What could have possessed you to print this calumny? You have smeared thousands of your own readers. You have fed into this nonsense that we are racist, homophobic extremists (millions of us!), and what most upsets me is that you all know better - at least, those of you that were journalistically responsible enough to get to know us.

My disappointment knows no bounds. At every turn since the inception of the Staten Island Tea Party one year ago, my response to verbal attacks on your newspaper and your reporters is to say that, with few and minor exceptions, you have been fair and balanced with us. And now this travesty - a smear on good and patriotic Staten Islanders whose sole crime is that they believe in individual liberties for all, and that those liberties are being threatened by a bloated federal bureaucracy. Somehow, this equates to racism.

Yes, the piece was in the Perspective section, and yes, it is the opinion of the author; but try as I might I cannot find a disclaimer on the part of the Staten Island Advance. To a man, you should be ashamed of yourselves for printing this dangerous and false libel.

Frank Santarpia
The Staten Island Tea Party