SO MUCH FOR DIVERSI-TEA…. It appears Tea Partiers are starting to feel a little defensive about charges of bigotry. There’s a good reason for that: racism has been common and pervasive within the so-called “movement” since its inception in the wake of last year’s middle-class tax cuts.

The prevalence of ugly, racially-divisive rhetoric and tactics came to a head last month with a denunciation from the NAACP, but its roots have been evident for quite a while — Tea Party rhetoric, placards, billboards, speeches, and initiatives have often been tainted with racism, with varying degrees of subtlety. It’s unfair to argue that this is a racist “movement,” but it’s entirely reasonable to note that it has far too many racist elements.

For Tea Party leaders and organizations, there’s a realization that this perception — shaped entirely by reality — is starting to take hold, and so it makes sense that the far-right zealots are making a surface-level effort to show their appreciation for diversity. This was evident two weeks ago, for example, when Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) hosted an event launching the House Tea Party Caucus, and white male speakers were kept to a minimum.

Yesterday, Tea Partiers took this a step further, hosting a “Uni-Tea” event in Philadelphia, to show the right-wing movement’s appreciation for diversity. New Jersey’s Jeffrey Weingarten co-organized the event and told TPM the other day that the intention was “to show off the movement’s diversity on stage while drawing demographics not usually associated with the tea party into the movement.”

So, how’d it go? Evan McMorris-Santoro and Jillian Rayfield were on hand, and noted that the event “appeared to be a borderline disaster” for Tea Partiers hoping to demonstrate “some actual demographic diversity in the movement.”

For three hours, a small crowd drifted in and out of Independence Park as speakers and musicians regaled them with paranoia about Democratic politicians and policies and reassurances that no matter what anyone says, there’s no racism in the tea party.

Even as just a regular old tea party rally, the event fell flat. Though organizers said the event’s website had been visited more than 2 million times in the days leading up to today’s rally outside Independence Hall, for most of the afternoon there were fewer than 500 in attendance. It was clear from the large numbers of volunteers and the 1,500 bottles the organizers put on ice that they expected a big crowd to turn out. They did not get it by a long shot.

I’ve haven’t seen Fox News reports on this, but one can assume it will tell viewers that 17 billion people attended the event.

Of the 500 or so attendees, McMorris-Santoro and Jillian Rayfield said fewer than 20 had “non-white faces.”

Going into the event, Weingarten said, “I hope people will be surprised.” Now that it’s done, I think it’s fair to say there was nothing surprising about it.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.