Former RNC Chair Steele Blasts CPAC Exec for 'Painfully Stupid' Comment

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele makes his remarks during a Republican National Committee Winter Meeting in Oxon Hill, Md., Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters made a comment about former RNC Chairman Michael Steele at the Reagan Dinner last night that reportedly drew gasps from the audience.


“We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do,” Walters reportedly said.


Steele called into MSNBC tonight to speak with Joy Reid about the matter. He told her someone approached him and asked if he heard, so he looked and reacted with a “What the…”

He said he fully intends to speak to ACU Chair Matt Schlapp about these “stupid” and “immature” remarks.

Steele added that Walters actually did speak to him to “explain himself” and that his response was to tell him it’s just “not acceptable,” even with the invocation of Barack Obama.

Saying that Steele was an affirmative action hire is bad form. And yes, it’s racist to suggest a black man got an important job solely because of his race — even if everyone in the country knows that the GOP hired him as part of an outreach effort to attract African Americans to the party. There was more to Steele’s hiring than simple racial politics and Walters is an idiot if he doesn’t know that.


Steele was offended, as this clip of his interview by ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp suggests.


An incensed Steele told Schlapp that it continues to dismay him to see people in the GOP saying things like this. Schlapp acknowledged it was not a great moment, but he argued out to Steele that he’s taken his share of potshots at Republicans and that maybe there were other issues people had with his chairman ship.

Steele responded, ‘What the hell does my race have to do with any of that, at the end of the day? What does the color of my skin have to do with anything you just said?”

When Schlapp made it clear Walters used “unfortunate words,” Steele lit up again and said, “It was stupid, not unfortunate! Call it what it is! It is stupid to sit there and say we elected a black man a chairman of the party and that was a mistake. Do you know how that sounds to the black community?”

Schlapp brought up how Walters called Steele and implored him not to “take the worst out of what he said” and “have some grace.”

He told Steele “you’ve not been very graceful” to elements of the party.

Michael Steele has been a loyal, hardworking party man for 20 years. He was rewarded with the chairmanship of the GOP because the party was trying to reach out to the black community and it made perfect political sense to hire a black person to accomplish that. There were many others equally qualified to do the job at the time, but the hiring of Steele was a strategic political decision. His qualifications and his race played a role in his being elected to the job. To claim that there were other candidates with superior qualifications who were passed over is ridiculous — and racist.


Steele is upset because Walters made it sound as if his race was the only consideration. That’s simply not true. The job of RNC chair is not taxing as it demands no special skills beyond organizational aptitude. It helps if the candidate looks and sounds good on TV.

Democrats can hire blacks in slavish devotion to “diversity” — i.e., hire them based, at least partly, on their race — but Republicans are only “pandering” when they hire blacks. This is the political reality we live in and there’s nothing to be done about it.


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