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Tea party group pictures Rove in Nazi Uniform
And the battle for control of the GOP has begun. He who has the gold makes the rules right?
By KENNETH P. VOGEL | 2/19/13 1:04 PM EST Updated: 2/19/13 6:23 PM EST
A top tea party group is taking its clash with Karl Rove to a new level, sending out a fundraising email Tuesday featuring a photoshopped image of the GOP operative in an SS uniform.
“Wipe the Smirk Off Karl Rove’s Face,” reads the subject line of the email, from Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.
The email features a photo illustration in which Rove’s face is grafted onto a photo of a uniformed officer in the Reichsführer-SS, an elite rank during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. The lower left-hand corner of the photo features the inscriptions “Reichsführer-SS” and “K. Rove,” and appears to match a photo of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.
Tuesday afternoon, more than five hours after the fundraising email went out, Tea Party Patriots issued a public apology to Rove.
“We apologize to Mr. Rove,” Martin said in the statement. “While we may have strong disagreements with Mr. Rove on the future of conservatism, we want to be clear this imagery is absolutely unacceptable and are working to ensure this type of mistake doesn’t happen again.”
Rove issued a statement saying all is well. “Apology accepted,” Rove said. “Now let’s all get back to work building conservative Republican majorities and stop President Obama’s agenda.”
Jameson Cunningham, a spokesman for Tea Party Patriots, said the image was added by accident. “The image was a mistake which was never approved by TPP,” he told POLITICO.
Cunningham provided a Microsoft Word document with what he said was the fundraising email as approved. It featured a link to a photo of an image of Rove appearing to thumb his nose. The next image in a slideshow on the linked page is the photo illustration of Rove in the SS uniform.
The tea party drew scathing criticism when a relatively small number of activists used racist rhetoric and Hitler comparisons in their criticism of President Barack Obama. Tea party leaders quickly denounced the rhetoric as unrepresentative of the small government movement, and pointed out that liberals protesting the Iraq war had compared former President George W. Bush to Nazis.
In fact, the Tea Party Patriots’ email lambastes “’Republicans’ like Rove” for calling “Tea Party members ‘racists’, ’bigots,’ ‘paranoid’ and even political ‘underbrush’” over “just that last few weeks.”
The fundraising pitch asks supporters to help the group raise $1 million by the end of the month, which it says will be used to oppose efforts by a new Rove-fronted outfit that intends to boost establishment candidates in 2014 GOP primaries.
Tea party groups have cried foul over Rove’s effort, which they say is an attempt to purge the GOP of their influence. The Tuesday email asserts “Karl Rove believes he can raise hundreds of millions of dollars, crush the Tea Party movement and protect the big-government status quo in Washington from millions of freedom loving Americans. Well, he’s wrong.”
After this story originally posted, Cunningham, who works for the public relations firm Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, provided a statement from Martin and TPP Deputy Executive Director Kevin Mooneyhan.
“We did not know about or approve a manufactured image added to a recent email from the Tea Party Patriots,” the statement read. “It was added by an outside vendor. The image was inappropriate and we have ordered the vendor to immediately cease further use of the image.”
Cunningham said the vendor was Active Engagement, which describes itself as “a cutting edge, digital multimedia political fundraising firm founded by Richard Norman in 2009.”
Tea Party Patriots paid $1.5 million for fundraising to “The Richard Norman Company,” which shares the same Lansdowne, Va., address as Active Engagement, from June 2010 through May 2011, according to the group’s tax filings.
J.D. Norman, a partner at Active Engagement, said his company took full responsibility for including the image.
“It was a mistake that we made. It was not a mistake that went through Tea Party Patriots,” he told POLITICO. His firm handles “tens of millions of emails over the course of a month or so for each independent client,” he said. “We’re trying to look into how it happened to prevent it in the future.”
Norman said the firm’s employees “typically try to find public domain images” that match a given fundraising email. Of the Nazi image, he said, “Obviously, it was the worst picture that could have been mistakenly put in that email. Beyond that it’s just a human error.”
Active Engagement has reached out to Rove but has not heard back, Norman said.