Tea-bagger at a rally in Oregon

*A columnist for the conservative newspaper Washington Times is trying to make the case that the term “tea-bagger,” used to describe people in the Tea Party movement, is just as nasty and offensive as the N-word.

In her column “Inside the Beltway,” Jennifer Harper also suggests that President Obama himself is the biggest offender of the word’s use.

She wrote:

Though he aspires to promote civility, evidence has surfaced that President Obama has added “tea-bagger” to his public lexicon, though it’s considered a cheap and tawdry insult by “tea party” activists. Watchdogs at Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) barked when they saw the proof, tucked in a sneak peak of Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter’s new book, “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” to be released May 18. Indeed, it appears the president joined certain partisan critics and the liberal media, and took the tea-bag plunge.

“This remark is the equivalent of using the ‘n’ word. It shows contempt for middle America, expressed knowingly, contemptuously, on purpose, and with a smirk. It is indefensible to use this word. The president knows what it means, and his people know what it means. The public thought we reached a new low of incivility during the Clinton administration. Well, the Obama administration has just outdone them,” ATR president Grover Norquist tells Inside the Beltway.

What Harper doesn’t note is that the term “tea-bagger” was embraced during the early days of the Tea Party movement, and was only rebuked when they discovered it was more commonly known for its sexual connotation and was being used to mock them. [See above photos.]

Several bloggers have come out swinging against Harper’s column. Alex Balk at theawl.com says Norquist comparing “tea-bagger” to the N-word “casually dismisses three centuries of dehumanization, violence, and intimidation in the world’s most pathetic attempt to manufacture outrage.”

Jason Linkins of the Huffington Post sums it up with this: “The “n”-word represents only the tip of the iceberg of the cruelty that has been visited upon black people in America. On the other hand, the word “tea-bagger” represents the full extent to which anyone has been cruel to the Tea Partiers.”