Republicans are blasting outspoken Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson for a fundraising email in which he associates the Tea Party with the Ku Klux Klan, calling it "hateful" and demanding Democrats return money the Florida lawmaker has raised for them.
Grayson's email features a picture of a burning cross used as a "T" to spell the words "Tea Party." Two figures dressed in white robes are pictured in the background.
The email also includes a partial transcript from an MSNBC interview in which Grayson says the "Tea Party is no more popular than the Klan."
While Republicans largely ignored the interview when it aired last week, the National Republican Campaign Committee on Tuesday jumped on Grayson for his email.
"There’s no excuse for the hateful words and Imagery used by Congressman Grayson," NRCC spokesman Matt Gorman wrote in an email to reporters. "House Democrats should swiftly and strongly condemn him and return the money he has raised for them."
Grayson said GOP criticisms ring hollow because Tea Party activists have engaged in "relentless racist attacks against our African-American president." As examples he said Tea Party activists have circulated "countless altered pictures depicting President Obama and the first lady as monkeys" and repeatedly have characterized the president as Kenyan and Muslim "in order to disparage him."
"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," Grayson said. "If the hood fits, wear it."
The Orlando-area lawmaker is no stranger to controversy. When debating a Democratic health care proposal on the House floor in 2009, he characterized the Republican alternative as: "Don’t get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly.” He defended his comment in the face of widespread GOP condemnation, responding, "I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."
Later that year, Grayson was widely condemned for calling an adviser to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke a "K Street w---e." He later apologized to the aide.