How is the Tea Party taking the news of Jim DeMint's removal from the Heritage Foundation? Judging by the reaction of the Senate Conservatives Fund, not well.
The national grassroots organization, which DeMint founded in 2008 to help elect conservatives, isn't buying the foundation's narrative. They're describing the personnel change as a coup orchestrated by establishment Republicans to silence conservatives.
"Our founder," a statement on the SCF website read, "was removed as president of The Heritage Foundation yesterday. We believe this decision was a mistake and we're proud to stand with conservatives across the country in supporting Jim DeMint."
In a dramatic episode, DeMint was toppled by the organization's board of directors in an ugly power struggle. Heritage called it restructuring, while others described it as a coup.
"Jim DeMint was pushed out by a small group of insiders who put their own ambition above the interests of conservatives," the conservative organization told its grassroots army.
"They succeeded with the help of DeMint's predecessor, Ed Feulner, who has close ties to the GOP establishment and even endorsed Mitch McConnell over conservative Matt Bevin in the 2014 Senate primary," the statement read.
Why is that significant? It depends on just how Heritage's large army of grassroots donors view it. Judging by the Facebook comments at the Daily Signal (where I used to work), the damage control efforts aren't convincing everyone. One Stephanie Gillespie summed up an emerging mood: "The Heritage Foundation has lost its way," she wrote. "I will no longer follow you. Jim DeMint was the best thing for you guys, but it seems you are folding like most of the republicans. Shame."
Dozens more followed suit. If Heritage doesn't find a way to quell this anger, it threatens to become the established narrative that the establishment knifed DeMint in the back.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.