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Sununu asks the media to back down on the 'racial slurs against black congressmen' story

If you missed the episode of "The Exchange" that just wrapped, you missed a fascinating monologue by New Hampshire GOP Chairman John Sununu. As soon as he dialed in, Sununu challenged the premise of the entire show on the tea party movement: What was "this obsession," he asked, with analyzing the movement instead of covering its issues? You'd be a lousy GOP chairman if you suggested any less. But Sununu went further and demanded some kind of contrition from the media for reporting that African American members of Congress were pelted with racial slurs and, in the case of Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, spit upon.

"There is video that proves this story wrong," said Sununu.

What followed was a discussion about spittle between me and President George H.W. Bush's first chief of staff. Sununu argued that Cleaver had walked back his statement, and I pointed out that this wasn't true -- there's a much-forwarded blog post that frames a punchy no-comment from Cleaver as proof that he was lying. I brought up this video of Cleaver walking up Capitol steps, reacting to something hitting him, and walking back down to confront someone in the crowd. That, said Sununu, wasn't definitive -- perhaps Cleaver was hit by something accidentally.

The segment ended there, but it's the clearest example I've seen of Republicans doing something that Andrew Breitbart has been doing for weeks, attempting to disprove the "slurs" story and create a new narrative of Democrats smearing and slurring tea partiers. Has it worked? Getting the entire movement onboard with the push-back is a pretty good start.

By David Weigel  |  April 6, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Congress , Fringe , Tea Party  
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