Everett Wilkinson, portly, nervous, and drenched in Polo cologne, is a man of many titles. In the past year, the New York Times has called him "Chairman of the Florida Tea Party" and a "Tea Party leader." To CNN, he's "Chairman of the South Florida Tea Party." The National Journal, perhaps the nation's premier arbiter of politics, knows him as "chairman of the Florida-based National Liberty Foundation." Fox News has even anointed him the "Tea Party Patriots' state party coordinator."

In the past four years, Wilkinson has been quoted more than 400 times in state and national media and has become, quite possibly, the most cited, nonelected conservative in Florida. If you're a journalist hammering out a political piece on deadline, he's your talking head. His phone's always on, and he always has things to say. "It was a deadline crash, and we had one hour to close," New York Times political reporter Jim Rutenberg says of a recent interview with Wilkinson. "We were glad to get him."

Adds Beth Reinhard, who once wrote for the Miami Herald and quoted Wilkinson this month in a National Journal cover story: "I left Florida 2.5 years ago, and I don't know him that well. I don't know anything about his backstory."

Everett Wilkinson: "So absolutely power-hungry."
Everett Wilkinson: "So absolutely power-hungry."

Which is exactly what gets left out of the column inches. Wilkinson, 34, was there when Florida's Tea Party was founded on tax day in 2009. Since then, however, he's been involved in controversy and lawsuits so extensive that the Tea Party Fort Lauderdale plasters a message at the bottom of its letters: We're "not in any way affiliated... with Everett Wilkinson, or any of his organizations that come and go."

What's more, big media either don't now about or don't bother with his out-there conspiracy theories and fringe extremism. This he saves for news releases. According to a perfunctory Wilkinson email, President Barack Obama will soon take away everyone's guns, spiraling the nation into a civil war that will spur the United Nations to send in "peacekeeping troops."

And he claims the Federal Emergency Management Agency has built more than 800 "concentration camps" all over the country to detain and silence any political dissident opposing the emerging socialistic, "if not fascist," control over the nation. The government "is gearing up for civil war," Wilkinson says.

Then there's the chilling and profane video he forwarded in a collection of news releases he emailed to New Times several weeks ago. A man rants off-camera about the government's future campaign to confiscate weapons as he films a Jo-Ann Fabrics store. "I know a lot of people aren't going to give their guns up and will try to take out as many as come knocking on their door," says the man, whom Wilkinson declined to identify. "What are we really supposed to fucking do? I guess try to take out as many of the pawns as we can."

So we sat down with Wilkinson last week, and he told us his story while cocooned in a large black suit and drinking cinnamon coffee. He grew up in rural Michigan, an hour west of Detroit, in a whitewashed township called Leslie. His parents divorced when he was young, and his mom raised and later homeschooled him. He hopped between Western Michigan University and Jackson Community College before finally obtaining a degree from an online university. Wilkinson arrived in Florida when he was 26 and opened a construction company he claims did "very well." (A survey of state business records shows no evidence that Wilkinson ever owned a business in Florida. When asked about this, Wilkinson said, "I'm not going to talk about personal stuff, period.")

Wilkinson says he didn't enjoy the work, however, and was soon seized with a new passion: conservative activism. On February 19, 2009, Rick Santelli went on CNBC and delivered his now-iconic shelling of President Obama and the federal stimulus, saying he was planning a Chicago "tea party" in July. "I saw the video later that day and thought, 'We can't wait for July. It needs to be now.'" So Wilkinson dialed his acquaintance Sid Dinerstein, then the Palm Beach County Republican chairman. Dinerstein called his buddies, and they all organized a rally in downtown West Palm Beach.

"On April 15, 2009, we had 2,500 people," says Dinerstein, recalling the first time he saw Floridians step into Colonial garb and bellow indignation. "And we also had [then-Florida House Speaker] Marco Rubio."

Across the country, more than 1 million people had protested. Though Wilkinson says today he conceived the Tea Party, his specific role isn't clear. Dinerstein claims to be the one who founded the Tea Party movement in Florida, and Wilkinson was just a "young guy" who helped.

The Times's Rutenberg says he has "known [Wilkinson] since the inception of the movement, and he's a legitimate Tea Party guy." But that claim has been disputed time and again.

After Wilkinson incorporated the South Florida Tea Party as a nonprofit on April 20, 2009 — one of the many Tea Party organizations with which he is affiliated — he started working the phones. "He called me and said, 'Anyone who's in the Tea Party in Florida is under the South Florida Tea Party. We're heading this up,'" recalls Danita Kilcullen, Fort Lauderdale Tea Party chairwoman. "And I didn't know him from Adam."

But that tenacity got him noticed. In October 2009, Wilkinson materialized on MSNBC's Hardball With Chris Matthews. Next came CNN, and soon Wilkinson had launched a Twitter handle: @teapartyczar.

"He's established some kind of celebrity status with the national programs," Kilcullen says. "Charlatans do that. He's just power-hungry. So absolutely power-hungry."

In January 2010, Wilkinson filed a federal lawsuit, which was later dropped, against the Florida TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, alleging it had misappropriated the name tea. Its chairman, Doug Guetzloe, then sued Wilkinson in state court for defamation; those claims too were dropped. In separate litigation, Wilkinson was sued in 2011 for breach of contract and paid a woman named Susan Smith of Palm Beach County $1,251 after she accused him of "lies" and "procrastination" that impeded her fundraising efforts, according to Sunshine State News.

That same year, Wilkinson organized a local rally for Donald Trump in Boca Raton but came up short $6,000 in security fees, and Trump had to cover the event's expenses. (Wilkinson says he hadn't expected so high a bill.)

Even today, money problems seem to bedevil Wilkinson. On a recent Tuesday, he said he makes "very little" through activism. He declined to reveal how much he pays to rent his office — a small, sterile side room in a three-story building in downtown West Palm Beach.

And it's likely, for all his national clout, he doesn't have much of a following. Wilkinson told New Times last November that he has as many as 40,000 followers, but Pam Wohlschlegel, the former Palm Beach County Tea Party chairwoman, said she doesn't know anyone anywhere who takes Wilkinson seriously.

Nick Egoroff, a Tea Party activist in Orlando, called Wilkinson a "has-been." Five prominent party activists interviewed by New Times all agreed: Wilkinson is pure bluster.

But what separates Wilkinson from others like him is how many reporters quote him — and repeatedly — without checking him out.

On the homepage of his website, liberty.com, there's a disturbing video depicting a group of Nazis confiscating a gun from a "Constitution fanatic," accusing him of "resisting social progress," and executing him.

Another "news" article published on February 15 says that "Supreme Leader Barack Hussein Obama" called for an "ultimate gun ban" in his recent State of the Union address to "communize" the country and establish his "anti-white, pro-radical Muslim, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic, pro-gay, socialist government and eliminate what few liberties we have left."

One lengthy piece, "It's Obvious They Want Civil War!," says Obama "staged or encouraged" the mass shootings that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut.

When New Times contacted the National Journal's Reinhard to ask whether she knew about any of this, she hurried to get off the phone. "I don't know him that well," she said. "I don't want to participate in a story like this... I just like doing my stories."

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14 comments
ericblacktygrrrr
ericblacktygrrrr

What a surprise...Beth Reinhard failed to do research before spouting off. She has a history of that, including her disgusting performance as a "moderator" at a 2012 GOP presidential debate. This piece spends so much time wondering why nobody checks out Wilkinson, but a bigger question is why nobody bothers to check out Reinhard. She is a charlatan, a terrible reporter, and somehow is treated as a respected authority.


Those questioning why anyone would call up Wilkinson for a quote should ask why this story bothered to get a quote from Reinhard. She is a leftist activist pretending to be a journalist.


eric @ the Tygrrrr Express

JHaven
JHaven

We have the right to free speech therefore Mr. Wilkinson has the right to say what is on his mind.  He has create So FLA Tea Party with thousands of loyal followers.  He has bought to light many issues - I commend him for his efforts!

lisabraun223
lisabraun223

Everett Wilkinson is a true Patriot.  He got over 5,000 people to the Trump event.  How could he possibly get that many people to show up if he did not have all of those supporters.  He's the real deal, but the main street media is trying to shut him up and shut him down.

This article is a hit job.  Ask yourself why - ???

jstillmanmb
jstillmanmb

I am outraged at the suggestion that the South Florida Tea Party is not real.  I am a member.

Thanks to Everett Wilkinson, real people have a voice in Florida politics.  


dodgephillip
dodgephillip

Everett Wilkinson is a hard working and successful grass-roots organizer. The notion that he is unknown is only applicable to those who don't know him but I suspect they soon will. When he organized the TAX DAY rally 3,000 of his followers showed up including Donald Trump. 

christianberke80
christianberke80

I'm not really sure what the point of this story is...it just goes back and forth between what Wilkinson is or isn't. If Wilkinson was able to get Trump to a Tea Party event - then he can take the title as leader because its deserved. I wonder how many other Tea Party "Leaders" are out there that can actually deliver on an event like that? I doubt there are any.

kristinaallen50
kristinaallen50

The Tea Party is full of jealous people , some of whom are litigious. Everett Wilkinson has done more to build the movement than many who are suing him. He makes little money. He does it for his country!

psmgop
psmgop

As a Republican, I loved this article. There are many crazy opportunists trying to claim the rightful crown of the Tea Party phenomenon.

I know for a fact that Everett Wilkinson did not start the Tea Party. I also know for a fact that Sid Dinerstein didn't either. It also wasn't started in Florida, nor did it begin in 2009. Those are all great lies told by these hypocritical "conservatives" who are responsible for some of the biggest government overreaches in Amerian history. The truth is simple, verifiable, and, best of all, will piss off all of these people.

The Tea Party originated in 2007 on the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. It was a campaign fund raiser for Ron Paul, the former Congressman from Texas. It took place virtually as one of the largest online one-day fundraisers, and it took place in the real world in multiple cities as supporters tossed boxes labeled "Iraq War", "TSA" and other libertarian staples into the closest body of water.

Just thought that evidence would make these crazy people look a lot crazier.

jd1510123
jd1510123

It seems like a lot of people continuously talk to, cite, and talk about/write about a man that has no clout, that no one takes serious, and has little influence.   

jstillmanmb
jstillmanmb

@psmgop You are ignorant.  The Tea Party Movement began from Rick Santelli's rant on CNBC about all of the bank bailouts.  He called for a new tea party - and the movement began from that point on.  Many people such a Ron and Rand Paul try to take credit for it but they are just trying to get some fame, and maybe trying to add to their fortune.

rareyrare
rareyrare

@psmgoplmao, this reminds me of when Limbaugh tried to take credit for Ron Paul's policies during the primaries.

Good to know that someone actually has a clue. Thanks, psmgop!

psmgop
psmgop

@jstillmanmb

Ron or Rand didn't claim it. The supporters of the 2007 campaign started the Tea Party as a fundraiser/nation-wide event.

The events served as networks for liberty-enthusiasts.

After Obama won the election, the Tea Party began to grow.

If you honestly think Santelli started the Tea Party movement despite evidence explicitly citing the contrary, I don't know what to say.

You obviously harbor hostility against Ron and Rand Paul. Either way, others will be the judge.

jstillmanmb
jstillmanmb

@psmgop @jstillmanmb Just because Ron and Rand Paul are now claiming their campaign was a supposed Tea Party event does not make it so.  They are fraudsters.  And you have now proven yourself the idiot we already thought you were

Are you a Ron Paul campaign worker???

Stupid is as stupid does, or blogs.

 
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