Another Surprise: Kate Zernike Turns Out Fair Story on Tea Party Convention

Kate Zernike's Sunday front-page story on a Tea Party convention in Nashville lets participants have their say without rebuttal.

Reporter Kate Zernike's coverage of the first National Tea Party Convention in Nashville made Sunday's front page: "At Tea Party Meeting, Looking to Forge a Full-Fledged Movement."

Zernike is best known to Times Watchers for her last-helicopter-out-of-Saigon defense of 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry against a group of fellow Vietnam veterans who questioned his service medals. But after parading some caricatured Tea Party protesters before her readership in Sunday's story, she tried to be fair, letting convention participants have their say without a filter.

Yes, there were the handful of Revolutionary War re-enactors with their powdered wigs and tri-corner hats. And the man with the T-shirt proclaiming himself a proud member of the "Tennessee MOB" - a poke at politicians who dismissed Tea Party members as an "angry mob." And one speaker did insist that Jesus' birth was better documented than President Obama's.

But at the inaugural National Tea Party Convention here this weekend, gone were the placards that protesters carried last year with Mr. Obama's face wearing a Hitler mustache or superimposed on the Joker. Gone, really, were any placards, unless you count the poster of Sarah Palin in her signature red jacket that hung from one of the wrought-iron balconies of the Opryland Hotel and Convention Center.

Organizers said that anyone "looking too crazy" would have been tossed out. They had a goal that turned out to be shared by pretty much everyone here: to turn the Tea Party into a serious political force, rather than the angry fringe group they say it had been branded as.

It's certainly been branded thus in the New York Times - including by Zernike hesrelf, in a January 15 story, when she used the words "anger" and "fringe" to describe the movement.