Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., sent supporters an email with the image of a burning cross that compared the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan, according to reports Tuesday
In a Monday campaign email, Grayson included the transcript of an interview he did recently with MSNBC in which he said the politics of the government shutdown had turned many Americans away from the tea party, the Orlando Sentinel reported
"At this point, the tea party is no more popular than the Klan," Grayson told the newspaper.
The email included a photograph of a burning cross with Klansmen in the background. The cross forms the "T" in the words "Tea Party" superimposed over the picture.
Below is the caption: "Now you know what the 'T' stands for," the Sentinel reported.
Grayson said in the email that the Republican Party does not want to do "anything useful" and they "simply want to bring about the End of Days as quickly as possible."
"That is the ultimate tea party Republican desire, to bring about the End of Days," he said, CNN reported. "The Republican Party has become the largest suicide pact in history. And I hope they don't take us with them."
The email drew immediate criticism.
"The depiction of burning crosses in Congressman Alan Grayson's most recent fundraising ask is despicable and needlessly hurtful to the many millions of families that still deal with the wounds of racial prejudice," wrote Republican Jorge Bonilla, who's challenging Grayson in 2014, the Sentinel reported.
"What's worse, he does so for no other reason than to troll for donations for his re-election campaign."
Jennifer Burke, national outreach director of TheTeaParty.net, called the email "deplorable," CNN reported.
"As a black tea party activist, I could say that there's nothing more offensive than equating the tea party with the Ku Klux Klan," Burke said.
"The hate speech uttered by sitting congressman Alan Grayson is deplorable, even by the low levels reached in recent years when Democrats routinely call us racists and suicide bombers."
Republican operatives at the Republican National Committee, as well as the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, called on President Barack Obama and Democratic counterparts to condemn the language.
But Grayson defended his email with examples of racism directed at Obama, depicting the sentiments as those of the tea party.
"For example, when the President visited my home of Orlando, tea party protesters shouted 'Kenyan, Go Home.' Other examples include tea party chants of 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird' and tea party posters saying 'Obama's Plan: White Slavery,' 'Imam Obama Wants to Ban Pork' and 'The Zoo Has An African Lion, and the White House Has a Lyin' African,'" he said.
"One could go on and on, because there is overwhelming evidence that the tea party is the home of bigotry and discrimination in America today, just as the KKK was for an earlier generation," he said. "If the shoe fits, wear it."
In his first term in office, Grayson also made headlines with heated rhetoric — including a description of a female adviser to federal reserve chairman Ben Bernake as a "K-Street whore"
and charging a GOP health-care plan was for sick patients to "die quickly."
Grayson lost his first re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Rep. Dan Webster, but rebounded in 2012 with a win in a newly drawn central Florida seat, the Sentinel reported.
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