Former GOP leader Michael Steele was stunned when Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Communications Director Ian Walters said Steele was only elected because he’s Black.
“We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a Black guy, that was the wrong thing to do,” Walters said Friday night at the Ronald Reagan dinner during CPAC.
Steele was the first Black chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), serving from 2009 to 2011. Walters said Steele’s election was only a response to Barack Obama becoming president.
“I wanted to talk to [CPAC chair] Matt Schlapp first, but I think it’s painfully stupid what he said,” Steele told the Observer backstage after Walters made the comments. “If he feels that way I’d like him to come say that to my face.
“And then I’d like him to look at my record and see what I did. I can’t believe an official of CPAC would go on stage, in front of an audience, and say something like that. I’ve been a strong supporter of CPAC for many years, and I thought they raised them better than that here.”
On his SiriusXM radio show the following day, he sat down with CPAC chair Matt Schlapp who called Walters’ comment “unfortunate words.”
“It’s not ‘unfortunate,’” Steele said. “Call it what it is. It is stupid to sit there and say that we elected a Black man chairman of the party … Do you know how that sounds to the Black community?”
Steele may also be questioning his affiliation with the Republican Party.
“I asked a quick question in a session about my own story and journey as a young 17-year-old growing up in Washington, D.C., and what drew me to the Republican Party,” he said. “The question I have today is, what would a 17-year-old African American male or female think about the Republican Party in joining it in 2018?”
But the Republican Party doesn’t acknowledge a disconnect with Black voters.
“The African Americans love me,” President Trump said while campaigning in January 2016.
He received only 8 percent of the Black vote.
Trump has called Black NFL players who’ve protested during the national anthem sons of bitches, made vulgar remarks about Haiti and African nations and fueled the rhetoric of the Birther movement against Obama, to name a few incidents. And there’s hardly an attempt to rectify the fact that Black people made up only 2 percent of registered Republican voters in 2016, according to the Pew Research Center.
Michael Steele said that Trump “was the man picking at the scab” of racism in the U.S. “until it became a wound again.”
Steele has been highly critical of Trump. He has said the president is to blame for retro racism in the United States, and even said Trump’s comments about African nations proves he’s racist.
Regarding Walters’ comments, Michael Ahrens, a spokesman for RNC, said in a statement, “We reject the offensive comments made.”
Walters tweeted Friday night that he apologized to Steele:
“I spoke with Mike Steele and apologized because the words I used do not capture my heart.”
Steele told MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid that Walters “did call and tried to explain himself.”
“And he related it back to Barack Obama’s election,” Steele explained. “And he said at one point, ‘I apologize.’ And I said, ‘That’s not acceptable, that’s not enough.’”