Jesse Jackson Blasts Tea Party at Martin Luther King Jr. Event

The civil rights leader says the group is up to old racist tricks.

Posted: 08/26/2011 09:35 AM EDT

Rev. Jesse Jackson railed against the Tea Party Thursday at a luncheon held in conjunction with the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, calling the group’s tactics old racist tricks.

"The Tea Party is not new," Jackson said. "It's just a new name for an old game."

Jackson told the audience that the Tea Party's tenets are simply a form of veiled racism that was used in the past to oppose federally mandated integration on the basis of state’s rights. The luncheon honored civil rights pioneers and featured guests and speakers such as Andrew Young, former United Nations ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

The Tea Party, of course, says those accusations couldn’t be further from the truth.

Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips called the remarks a desperate attempt by liberals to use racism as an excuse to dismiss the validity of the Tea Party's message.

"The Tea Party is actually the group that believes in the words of Martin Luther King when he said he wanted to see a day where people were judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin," Phillips said.

Thursday was certainly not the first time that the Tea Party has been called a racist group. Controversy erupted in March when tapes leaked showing the former fundraiser for National Public Radio, Ron Schiller, calling the group racist and xenophobic. Schiller resigned following the scandal.

"It is unfortunate that at an event intended to honor the memory of an American hero who gave his life to ensure equal rights for every American, Jesse Jackson would choose to use the moment to make false statements which detract from the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.," said Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots.

Tea Party members maintain that their focus is not on race, but on reducing the size and scope of the federal government and adhering to the principles of the Constitution.

(Photo: Dario Cantatore/Getty Images)

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