WASHINGTON (CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended the GOP's decision to automatically re-direct angry liberal callers to the Democratic National Committee Wednesday, telling reporters he "thought it was a good idea."
"Don't think you're going to direct a bunch of angry liberals to call the RNC when I know full well what that's all about," Steele said during an RNC conference call. "I get....the joke." He said he thought those critics should talk to their own party, who held responsible for "ginning this up."
Earlier in the day, a new DNC Web ad accused the Republican Party of "inciting mobs" to deliberately disrupt congressional town hall meetings where the Obama health care plan was being discussed, and asked viewers to call the RNC to register their disapproval. The RNC changed their phone menu so that those callers were directed to press a button that automatically transferred their call to the DNC.
Steele dismissed questions over whether the GOP move to deflect critical calls was hypocritical in light of recent criticism of Democrats for "demonizing" the town hall protestors, and denied the Republican Party had any role in organizing the confrontations.
"We're not inciting anyone to go out and disrupt anything," said Steele. "We're not organizing the town halls," only encouraging individuals to visit their congressman or senator to "express their point of view."
"There's no upside for the Republican Party [in the protests]," he said later in the call. "That's not something that's coordinated or deliberately set in motion by me or anyone in the state party.
"...To sit back and say this is a Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney. And you can substitute that 'b' for something else if you want."
Later, a frustrated Steele shot down another question about the GOP's view of the recent chaos at congressional town halls. "I'll speak slowly. There's legitimacy to the protest. But how people protest…. I have no control over."
He added that there was nothing unusual about the development, and that he did not understand why the face-offs were drawing media attention. "Why is it so out of the ordinary that the American people should stand up and say, 'I have a concern about something the government is going to do?'
"… I'm not telling people to go out and be disruptive, because there's no upside to doing that. We want to have a legitimate debate…there's no upside for us in starting a fight with the Democratic Party, or with elected officials that we disagree with."