RNC Chairman Michael Steele has come under heavy criticism in recent weeks following news that RNC donor money was used to pay a $2,000 tab at a Los Angeles strip club. Days later, a fundraising letter “mistakenly directed would-be donors to call a telephone number belonging to a phone-sex operation.”
Even allies were quick to attack Steele and the committee, following months of other missteps. Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, urged members to stop giving money to the RNC. Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) publicly chided Steele yesterday, refusing to say whether Steele “should step down or not.” “This kind of thing has got to stop,” Kyl said on Fox News Sunday. A recent National Journal poll found that 71 percent of Republican “insiders” thought of Steele as a “liability.”
But today, in his first interview since the scandal broke, Steele said he would not step down and that he was “very angry” about the sex club “behavior.” Steele also suggested some the criticism directed towards him may be a result of his race, saying that African-Americans have a smaller “margin of error”:
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ve got questions on my blog for you, this morning. One came in from Myron, he asked, do you feel as an African-American, you have a slimmer margin for error as another chairman would?
STEELE: The answer is yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why is that?
STEELE: It just is. Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It’s a different role for, you know, for me to play and others to play. That’s just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it. It’s not — it’s more because you’re not someone that they mow. I’m not a Washington insider, even though I grew up here in D.C. my view on politics is much more grassroots oriented. It’s not old boy network oriented. And so, you know, I tend to come at did stronger, streetwise, if you will..
It’s ironic that Steele would use such a defense considering that he has has often been very critical of Democrats who “play the race card” when they get into trouble. In December, Steele called for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to apologize for invoking slavery during the health care debate, and attacked “the left” for using race when “their backs are up against the wall”:
I’m kinda sick and tired of the left and Democrats in this country when they get in trouble and don’t get their way and their backs are up against the wall on legislation or whatever it is their trying to do, they go to that card, they play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card.
As Media Matters noted, Steele has even explicitly said in the past, “I don’t play the race card, I don’t play the race game.” But, this is not the first time Steele has hypocritically employed the “race card.” In September, when former President Jimmy Carter stirred a media-frenzy when he suggested that some opposition to Obama is based on his race, Steele wrote and op-ed blasting Carter’s “[b]lind charges of racism, where none exist.” The day before that, Steele went on CNN and accused Democrats of racism against him.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs responded, “I think that it is a very silly comment to make. I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card, it’s the credit card.”