“Interesting.”

That was the first reaction from Hawaii Rep. Charles Djou when told The New York Times reported Friday that the freshman Republican is a “House Tea Party candidate.”

The story names Djou as one of the 129 Tea Party candidates in the 435 House races. His 1st Congressional District race is considered a toss-up, according to the Times.

“For purposes of the list,” the paper said, “Tea Party candidates were those who had entered politics through the movement or who are receiving significant support from local Tea Party groups and who share the ideology of the movement.”

“That’s the New York Times’ opinion,” Djou told Civil Beat of the paper’s decision to include him among the 129. He said he had not seen the article.

Told the article was a front page news story and not an opinion piece, Djou said, “Chad, I am not a member of the Tea Party, I have not joined the Tea Party nor the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House.”

How to explain the NYT article, then?

“I have no idea, but I am speculating,” he said. “I know a number of my supporters and contributors to my campaign perhaps call themselves Tea Partiers. I guess that is where they get it from.”

Djou added, “Some supporters of mine also support President Obama, but that does not mean that I do.”

The Times reports, “Liberty First Political Action Committee, a national Tea Party group with more than 10,000 members, has supported Mr. Djou with an endorsement, a $2,000 contribution and advertising in the Honolulu area.”

Civil Beat sent Djou a copy of the article Monday morning. The congressman sent back this response:

“I think the NY Times is saying I’m a ‘Tea Party Candidate’ based on a contribution sent to me by a Tea Party affliliated PAC. Again, while I welcome support from any individual or organization that agrees with my views on fiscal responsibility and government accountability, I am not formally a member of any Tea Party organization and I did not/have not joined the Tea Party Caucus in the US House.”

The Times includes Djou’s name with the likes of Senate candidates Rand Paul (Kentucky), Sharon Angle (Nevada) and Christine O’Donnell (Delaware).

“While the numbers are relatively small, they could exert outsize influence, putting pressure on Republican leaders to carry out promises to significantly cut spending and taxes, to repeal health care legislation and financial regulations passed this year, and to phase out Social Security and Medicare in favor of personal savings accounts,” reports the Times.

Djou said he wasn’t sure if he would ask the Times for a correction.

The Times also reports that John Willoughby, the Republican candidate in Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District, is a Tea Party member. Willoughby is not considered a serious threat to Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, though he has received the backing of Sarah Palin.

About the Author