FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
April 28, 2014
JUSTIN SULLIVAN/Getty Images

Keying off news about "tea party" Rep. Michael Grimm's indictment, the Washington Post's Aaron Blake has penned an interesting piece on "the misappropriation of the tea party label."

As Blake notes:

The question during the election, often asked in this newsroom and (we would presume) others, was, in what situation is the tea party label appropriate?

If a candidate is endorsed by a local tea party group, does that make him or her a "tea party candidate?"

Just because someone is challenging an establishment or more well-known candidate, does that make them a "tea party candidate?"

And do reporters wait for a candidate to define themselves as a "tea party candidate," or can we make that judgment on our own based on their public statements and stances?

The answers to these questions were all too often muddled in the hectic runup to the 2010 midterms. In the end, it became pretty easy to apply the label to all kinds of Republicans who didn't necessarily fit the bill. [Washington Post]

Part of the problem, I think, is that the term makes for convenient shorthand for journalists who are looking to write a short headline, or a clickable 140-character tweet. This leads to convenient, if misleading, classifications.

Let's take, for example, the now-infamous case of Todd Akin, whose comments about "legitimate rape" helped ignite the "war on women" narrative, and likely cost the GOP at least one Senate seat in 2012. Some amorphous entity called the tea party was blamed for Akin's comments. But as Slate's Dave Weigel notes,

The 2012 Missouri primary was a three-way race between Akin, businessman John Brunner, and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. "Todd Akin is often called a Tea Party candidate," says Tea Party Express strategist Sal Russo, "but we didn't support him in the primary. [Slate]

Headlining a story "Tea party candidate Todd Akin today..." is much sleeker and simpler than adding all sorts of disclaimers and caveats like: "Todd Akin — who some consider a tea party candidate, but [since he's an incumbent congressman] might be more accurately described as an establishment social conservative..." At a certain point, the caveats become absurd.

And so, the term tea party has become a victim of its own success. It sold out; went mainstream. Just as "alternative music" became a meaningless label after 1992 (once alternative music became mainstream music), the tea party label no longer means much of anything — except nominally conservative.

Now if only I could quit using it in my pithy headlines. Matt K. Lewis

5:39 p.m. ET

On Sunday, the Carolina Panthers will meet the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. But aside from the snacks and the commercials that star puppies, I'm pretty lukewarm about the spectacle.

And then I go and find a photo like this, from the very first Super Bowl in 1967, when the Green Bay Packers trounced the Kansas City Chiefs, and I lament my indifference to the sport.

(AP Photo)

Just look at their utter jubilation! The man in the middle, who's wearing what looks to be an ascot (imagine a time when football fans wore ties and ascots to the game!), waving his arms around like he just don't care, is having a near-religious experience. It's inspiring and I'm jealous. Lauren Hansen

4:10 p.m. ET
SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images

An Indiana lawmaker is refusing to back civil rights protections for gays and lesbians because there are no similar laws protecting "fat white people." State Rep. Woody Burton called homosexuality "a behavioral thing," like overeating, and argued, "If I pass a law that says transgenders and homosexuals are covered under the civil rights laws, does it say anywhere that fat white people are covered?" The Week Staff

3:41 p.m. ET
iStock

Twitter revealed Friday that it has deleted 125,000 accounts threatening or promoting terrorism since mid-2015, CNBC reports. The Brookings Institution estimated last year that there were at least 46,000 such accounts in existence; Twitter's numbers indicate that ISIS and other terrorist groups have either upped their presence on social media, or Twitter has become better at targeting terrorist accounts.

Spam-fighting technology flags posts by potential terrorists, which are then reviewed by humans, The Associated Press reports. Prior to Friday, Twitter had not revealed the scale to which terrorists were active on Twitter. Jeva Lange

3:32 p.m. ET
Courtesy image

At the price it sells for, this little chocolate ball "better cure PMS, heartbreak, and file our income taxes," said Dominique Haikel at E! Online. For years now, La Madeline au Truffle ($250) from Connecticut-based chocolatier Fritz Knipschildt has reigned as the most extravagant confection in the world. Each one is made to order to get the most of its seven-day shelf life. Dark chocolate dusted in cocoa powder encases a rare mushroom — a Périgord truffle — that's been smothered in a chocolate ganache infused with truffle oil. The whole thing weighs just 1.9 oz, but comes resting on a bed of sugar pearls in a pretty silver box. The Week Staff

3:14 p.m. ET
TIZIANA FABI/AFP/Getty Images

The Vatican announced Friday that Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, will meet in Cuba next Friday, marking the first such meeting between a pope and a Russian patriarch in history. The Eastern Orthodox and Western factions of Christianity split nearly 1,000 years ago in 1054's Great Schism over issues such as papal authority and have remained "formally estranged" ever since, The Washington Post reports.

The private, two-hour meeting will take place at José Martí International Airport in Havana. It's seen as the most significant effort ever made to repair relations. Becca Stanek

2:45 p.m. ET
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for NRDC

Rumor has it that Bernie Sanders will make an appearance on this weekend's Saturday Night Live episode hosted by Larry David, who just so happens to be a skilled imitator of the Vermont senator. "We'll be live in New York," Sanders' senior adviser Tad Devine told CNN Friday.

This would mark Sanders' first actual appearance on the show, though David has appeared many times this season to impersonate him. Sanders' Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton made a cameo back in October.

His appearance would come just days before the New Hampshire primaries on Tuesday. NBC has yet to make an official announcement. Becca Stanek

2:35 p.m. ET

With four days to go until the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump has made what some believe is a questionable move — leaving the state altogether. While other candidates have been staying in hotels in the state, Trump canceled his New Hampshire event on Friday after inexplicably flying back to New York late Thursday. Trump instead plans to attend a rally in South Carolina Friday evening after essentially having "a day off," Red State reports.

"Big storm in New Hampshire. Moved my event to Monday. Will be there next four days," Trump tweeted by way of explanation.

The rest of the candidates have chosen to press on, not sharing Trump's habit of flying home every night after campaigning. "My 90-year-old mother made it out to campaign," Jeb Bush tweeted at Trump.

An anonymous official speaking with CNN also raised the question of if Friday's snowfall was truly a reason to cancel an event. "There are no other campaigns canceling events as far as I know right now. We would expect there to be a blizzard for a campaign to cancel. So maybe the question is: Why did he go back to New York last night?" the GOP official asked. Watch MSNBC break down the possible consequences of Trump's decision below. Jeva Lange

See More Speed Reads