Walter Pierce

Correction: Tea Party schism leads to mistaken identity

by Walter Pierce

So many tea parties, so little time! I owe an apology to Glenn Ellerbe and the Acadiana Tea Party for falsely linking them to the Tea Party of Louisiana in my Monday blog, “Reserve to get some TEA Monday,” detailing a road trip by members of the Acadiana Tea Party to Reserve, La., where four cabinet secretaries from the Obama administration hosted a town hall meeting on rural health care. It turns out there is a schism in the Tea Party movement in Louisiana; there are in fact two Tea Party groups based in Lafayette — Ellerbe’s Acadiana Tea Party and the Tea Party of Lafayette, whose spokeswoman is Joyce Linde and on whose July 13 press release the mistaken identity is based. Doppelgangers they are not.

The Tea Party of Lafayette, Linde’s group, is linked with the Tea Party of Louisiana and its founder, Chris Comeaux, who, according to Ellerbe, went rogue and was booted from the more mainstream Louisiana Tea Party due to his controversial opinions — opinions which can be gleaned by viewing videos like “The Obama Deception” posted on the TPL’s Web site. The Acadiana Tea Party is associated with the Louisiana Tea Party. Confusing? You betcha!

“Joyce Linde, months ago, was a part of my organization,” Ellerbe says, “but since then she went off on her own.” Two competing visions for the Tea Party movement — mainstream, grassroots activism (Louisiana Tea Party) versus freeper-birther paranoia (Tea Party of Louisiana) — led to the split. The Ellerbes of the movement say Comeaux expropriated the Tea Party name to lend legitimacy to his conspiratorial cause, and the confusion is not lost on the Acadiana Tea Party. “Basically [we’re going to] put out a press release, and send an e-mail statement and phone calls to let everybody know the truth behind Chris Comeaux. Basically, it’s one guy who got kicked off of Baton Rouge (Louisiana Tea Party) because he’s got his own agenda and it is not reflective of the Tea Parties. He’s very divisive and he’s doing nothing but harm to the reputation and the message of the Tea Parties.”