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Video: GOP leader John Boehner embraces 'tea party,' carefully

House minority leader John Boehner said he did not join the congressional Tea Party Caucus, but defended members of the 'tea party,' when asked about it at a Monitor lunch for reporters.

By Dave Cookstaff writer / July 21, 2010

House Minority Leader John Boehner talks with reporters at a Monitor-sponsored lunch Wednesday in Washington.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor

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House Minority Leader John Boehner offered a careful embrace of the Tea Party when asked about the formation of the Congressional Tea Party Caucus.

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Responding to a question about Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-MN) Tea Party Caucus, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) says although he declined to join the caucus, the political movement "should not be dismissed."

Speaking at a Monitor sponsored lunch with reporters on Wednesday, Rep. Boehner confirmed that the Chair of the newly formed Tea Party Caucus, Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, had not talked to him about her plans to start the organization. “No, she did not ask me about this before hand,” he said.

The Minority Leader was careful to note that he has not joined the new caucus. “I haven’t joined caucuses for a long time…. You get labeled and I have just not been in any caucus... it has been at least 10 [years], maybe longer,” Boehner said. The third ranking member of the Republican House leadership, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, has joined the Tea Party Caucus.

Boehner offered a defense of Tea Party supporters when a reporter asked if there was a danger to the Republican Party in becoming too closely identified with the movement. He acknowledged that at Tea Party events, there are “always a couple of anarchists who want to kill all of us in public office.”

But he added that, “75 percent of the people who show up at these events are the most average, everyday Americans you have ever met” who have been “driven off their easy chair, driven away from their TV and into the streets of America to demonstrate against their own government.”

The Minority Leader argued that those who take part in public demonstrations are “the tip of the iceberg.” He said that Tea Party activists “represent the same values, concerns, frustration, anger, and fear that you see from tens of millions of other Americas who are not in the streets – yet. They should not be dismissed, they shouldn’t be mocked….We should listen to them, we should work with them, and we should walk amongst them.”

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