Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele confronted the head of the Conservative Political Action Conference over comments an organization employee made about his race. Ian Walters, an employee of the American Conservative Union, the conservative organization that hosts the annual CPAC event, said at a dinner Friday night that the Republican Party elected Steele because of his race.
“[In 2009] …We had just elected the first African-American President and that was a big deal. And that was a hill that we got over and it was something that we were all proud of. And we weren’t sure what to do. And uh, a little bit of cynicism, what did we do? This is terrible thing. We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC Chair because he’s a black guy – that was the wrong thing to do.”
CPAC head Matt Schlapp tried to defend Walters’ comments saying he was only trying to articulate a dissatisfaction many conservatives felt with Steele’s job performance as chairman, as well as frustration at the level of criticism Steele has leveled at the Republican Party since his departure in 2011.
Steele has been highly critical of President Trump and the direction the Republican Party has taken under him in recent years.
“It’s not ‘unfortunate,'” Steele to said Schlapp during an episode of the SiriusXM radio show “Steele and Ungar” which Steele co-hosts. “It is stupid to sit there and say that we elected a black man chairman of the party, and that was a mistake. Do you know how that sounds to the black community?”
“I’ve spent 41 years in this party,” Steele continued. “And for him to stand on that stage and denigrate my service to this party, and for you as a friend to sit there and go, ‘Well, you have been critical of this party …’ There is only one word I can say, and I can’t say it on this air.”
“I guess I would say the first thing, in all candor, Ian is my colleague at work and he is my friend and I love Ian and I’m not going to separate myself from Ian,” Schlapp said during the exchange. “I think he said some words that the worst people who are our political enemies could take in the worst way. This is radio, you don’t get to see Ian’s skin color in this radio program, but Ian is also somebody who understands what it is like to have racial challenges in the political system…”
Schlapp, in ending the exchange, pleaded with Steele to not take Walters’ comments personally. “I would just say, remember, Michael, I still love ya. I can understand why you might not love me. I’ll take the licks on this one. I think it was not our best moment. But don’t always jump to the conclusion that just because people use inarticulate words that they have it in for you.”