Tea Party’s feud with American Crossroads gets nastier

Conservatives are calling for the super PAC's spokesman to be fired over his "hater" comment

Topics: Karl Rove, American Crossroads, Brent Bozell, Media Research Center, Tea Party, Family research council,

A group of conservative activists wrote a letter on Wednesday calling for the firing of Jonathan Collegio, the spokesman for the Karl Rove-backed super PAC American Crossroads, because he called one of them a “hater.”

It began on WMAL-FM’s “Mornings on the Mall” radio show in Washington, D.C., when conservative activist Brent Bozell accused Rove and American Crossroads of waging “gang warfare” on the Tea Party and conservatives. Collegio appeared on the show the next day and dismissed Bozell’s comments. “Bozell is a hater and he also has a long, sordid history hating Karl Rove too,” Collegio said. “He has weird, personal axes to grind.”

This did not go over well with Bozell, who reportedly interpreted “hater” to mean “racist,” and who rallied 24 other conservative activists to sign a letter to Crossroads president Steven Law, calling for Collegio to be sacked. “We, the free men and women of this great nation, affirm everyone’s natural right to speak their mind — but we cannot and will not abide the unjust, personal broadside your aide, Jonathan Collegio, leveled against a man whose family has dedicated itself to advancing the cause of liberty for over half a century,” the letter said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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The letter continues that Collegio used “the language of the establishment Republicans. It is the divisive language of the Left.”

Among the conservatives who joined Bozell were Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly and Citizens United’s David Bossie.

In a statement, Collegio apologized for “contributing to the vitriol,” but added that Bozell had called Crossroads “‘fake conservatives,’ which is language that perniciously and unfairly judges the motives of others and fails to acknowledge that there might be honest differences on strategy within the conservative movement.”

Collegio also attributed Bozell’s objections to “a generational difference in defining the word ‘hater,’” noting that the group of conservatives “took it as a severe insult akin to being called a racist,” when in fact he just meant it as a term for someone who is very negative.

This is the latest dust-up in a week full of angry rhetoric from Tea Partyers provoked by Rove’s new initiative, the Conservative Victory Fund. Former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., who announced his own super PAC to fight back against Rove’s super PAC, on Wednesday said that “If Rove wants a fight for the soul of the Republican Party, bring it on.”

Rove, Collegio and others at Crossroads have meanwhile been insisting up and down that they’re not interested in a war with the Tea Party, they just want to help Republicans field more candidates in the primaries who can then go on to win in the general election.

Jillian Rayfield is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on politics. Follow her on Twitter at @jillrayfield or email her at jrayfield@salon.com.

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