CNN is explaining its decision to air Rep. Michele Bachmann's tea party-themed rebuttal
in addition to the official Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union speech.
In an e-mailed programming note Tuesday, CNN political director Sam Feist called the grassroots conservative movement "a major force in American politics" and in the GOP.
"Hearing the tea party's perspective on the State of the Union is something we believe CNN's viewers will be interested in hearing and we are happy to include this perspective as one of many in tonight's coverage," Feist said.
Bachmann's post-SOTU message was originally going to be available only via a stream on the Tea Party Express website.
The third-term congresswoman (R-Minn.) has become a superstar in tea party circles for her sharp criticisms of the White House. Bachmann has even formed a tea party caucus on Capitol Hill.
Her decision, announced Friday, to deliver a rebuttal from the tea party perspective upset some in the GOP who believe the party should present a unified front behind the official response by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).
CNN's plan to include the Bachmann address as part of its Tuesday night coverage only annoyed Republican insiders further. They fear the Republican Party will come across as at odds with one another.
"CNN is basically inventing a conflict that doesn't really exist," a GOP aide wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post
. "It's not responsible journalism."