September 30th, 2009
11:20 AM ET
5 years ago

Steele calls Tom Friedman a 'nut job' over latest column

Steele appeared on CNN's American Morning Wednesday.
Steele appeared on CNN's American Morning Wednesday.

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele Wednesday beat back suggestions from some political commentators - most recently from the New York Times' Tom Friedman - that conservative opposition to President Obama is creating a political climate that may foreshadow attempts of violence against the commander-in-chief.

"Where do these nut jobs come from? Come on, stop this," Steele told CNN's John Roberts on American Morning in direct response to a quote from Friedman's column Wednesday equating the current political environment to that which occurred ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination in 1995.

"To make those equations, examples and put that out there that way, to me is just crazy and yeah, I'm sorry, but if you're going to approach this discussion, approach it from a rational position," Steele continued. "[They're] saying, because you disagree with the president on policy, that all of the sudden we're going to make this leap into, you know, assassinations and all this other stuff. I mean, at the height of all this stuff on Bush and people complaining and protesting, and jumping up and down, you didn't have this kind of conversation."

"There are passions that run deep and long on both sides of the aisle," Steele also said. "Don't necessarily jump to the conclusion that, because someone says something vitriolic or hot that's necessarily from the right or the left. It's reflecting deep-seeded frustrations people have."

Steele also criticized accusations that many of the president's critics are driven by race, rather than pure policy disagreements.

"I'm always very careful about going down that road, you know, so blindly and so quickly," said Steele, adding later, "I applaud the president on this front. He has been out there saying look, let's separate all of this into the appropriate pockets and not go down this road unnecessarily."

The Republican Party chairman was also quick to condemn a user posted poll on Facebook over the weekend asking if the president should be assassinated.

"How stupid is that? Why would you even put something like that on Facebook?" he said. "It takes us to a place where we don't need to be, quite frankly in the debate of any public policy issue."


Filed under: Michael Steele
soundoff (299 Responses)
  1. Manny

    The political climate was just fine though when Bush was being bashed very single day by the liberal media. What hypocrites! Politics is a tough game, if you can't stand the heat, get out of public life.

    September 30, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  2. musician

    Once again Steele seems to have missed the main point of Freidman`s article. The fact that the right wing is now, rather loudly and viciously, attaching Obama`s Presidential legitimacy. This, of course, creates an atmosphere where the zealous and violent fringes of his party ( and we all know they exist ) feel more compelled to take that one big step over the line and try to "save their country" from Obama. He denies that such a thing is possible when we all know that it is indeed possible. I lived through the wave of assassinations of the sixties, (JFK, Bobby Kennedy, MLK ) and I recognize a similar type of political atmosphere today. Poisonous, seething anger, tacitly condoned by members of his party`s leadership. Steele is a fool. He won`t see the obvious until it`s too late.

    September 30, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  3. Michael - Portage, Mi

    Nut jobs like Sarah Palin and her standing idly by while people at her rallies hollered "traitor," "kill him," etc. Nut jobs like Steven Anderson that had his followers brandishing firearms outside of presidential events, nut jobs like.........well, the list goes on.

    Mr. Steele should perhaps pay better attention and think about how pathetic the party of Lincoln has become.

    September 30, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  4. Anonymous

    There unfortunately is a very racial backlash to President Obama. It is so obvious you can feel it and see it on the news. On one conservative talk show the host call's the President the "anointed one". To that person I say you are very rude.

    So lets not delude ourselves that the GOP is not guilty of distorting the facts and to call Mr Friedman crazy or the cruder attacks on the President is in itself very rude.

    September 30, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  5. Tom St. Paul

    Friedman makes a good, reasonable arguement in his column. Steele's response is apalling. He has missed yet another opportunity to exert some leadership over his party by condemning the over-the-top tactics of the far right. Like Freidman, those of us who lived through other times of social and political upheaval know how the oppessive climate it generates can quickly spin off into dangerous directions.

    September 30, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. Paul

    Well said Mr. Steele. We have the liberal protesters attacking policeman at the G20 and that is standard fare. Conservatives use raised voices and pick up after themselves at protests and the lunatic media jumps to assassination. I and at least 3/4 of my friends do not agree on almost anything Obama has done but I do not know anyone who would want anything ever to harm him or his family.

    September 30, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  7. Shaniqua in Orlandos Floridd

    The should let Plonaski go caus he is reelly famous and rich too and what he did was 70 years ago. Also that is why th e should let Obama go when he get caugt he is reelly famous

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Jeff in Virginia

    Steele should be addressing the likes of Limbaugh and Beck.

    What a buffoon.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    And this is the leadership the American people are getting today. The extreme left and the extreme right calling each other names? These two parties have a monopoly on our government. And neither party has been truthful in decades, neither has a moderate stance anymore.
    Where is the common ground, where are the centrists? Where are the real leaders that can bring common sense back to our government? I have my opinion where they are, but these people do not scream and call other people names. We are Libertarians the answers to the problems of today are all solved within the US Constitution, google it and re-read it today.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  10. Ed from the western slope of Colorado

    Disagreement and debate are one thing, but the hatred for Mr. Obama that is spewing out of the repubs, whether beck's, limbaugh's or steele's mouths is beyond sensibility. Creating a climate of violence and hatred? Just witness the whack jobs carrying weapons to the Obama speech in Phoenix (just because they could). The Secret Service will have to be working very hard to protect Mr. Obama and his family from some crazy out there that will feel it's his duty to carry out the wishes of beck, hannity, limbaugh, not to mention actual elected officials that have acted like children in their angry hate filled rhetoric. President Obama was duly elected to office by a majority of votes. So, to all the right wing nuts out there.... get over it and get on with your life and help this country out rather than demeaning it by acting like spoiled brats.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  11. Bob in Pa

    Friedman is just following Pelosi's lead. Liberals in power want to find a way to silence their critics, people like Mr. Friedman feel that they are part of the "cause" and do pretty stupid things. Just throw it out there and see if it sticks.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. CACATHY

    Steele is the "nut job". Never at any time during Bush's disastrous presidency did anybody put a poll on Face book asking if he should be killed. You ignore history at your peril.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  13. jt

    It's not the GOP that's causing the climate. It's the MSM that's fueling the fire....

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  14. Jayden, FL

    Mr Steele have taken a good look at your party? the nutjobs are in your party! Just look at the Tea Party which was brought to you by Fox Noise... a network full of nutjobs.

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  15. LOL!!!

    That's the pot calling the kettle black! Steele is a COMPLETE MORON!

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  16. Limp Steel

    "Certified Black Enough To Criticize Barack Obama", Rush Limbaugh

    September 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  17. BillH

    If I were a Conservative Republican, and especially Michael Steele, I would be careful about calling people "nuts." Aside from the childish namecalling, there has been an abundance of evidence that many of our conservative friends have been acting somewhat irrationally from time to time (e.g., at "town hall" meetings).

    September 30, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  18. TangledThorns

    The Left don't understand why Obama is failing so they blame fantasy extreme groups. This won't work in 2010 nor 2012. The Left have no responsibility for their failures.

    September 30, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  19. Jeff - Austin, TX

    Look in the mirror before you call anybody a "nut job."

    September 30, 2009 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  20. Luke Brown

    What planet is Steele living on? Who does he think is engendering this climate of hate and fear in this country?

    I don't know who Friedman is, but I live in the South and believe me, he knows what he is talking about. I have never seen so much hatred toward our country, and in particular from so-called patriots.

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  21. Margo

    Just one question for Michael Steele: If Obama wasn't President, would Steele be chairman of the RNC?

    The RNC are using Steele as a hunting blind. That Steele would allow that says something about both him and the Republicans.

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  22. Average guy in Kansas

    Mr. Steele is not known for his cool logic. Nor is he encumbered by rational thought.

    As the temperature of the debate over a variety of important issues rises thanks to those on the fringe, so does the possibility that one of those on the fringe will hear voices that tell him/her to do something about it.

    Friedman's right. Steel's wrong. It's as simple as that.

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  23. LacrosseMom

    Mr. Steele, considering that most Americans polled do not consider themselves Republicans (21% claim to be), I caution you about calling people names. Tom Friedman is one of our favorite writers and columnists. He is brilliant and fair. Which is more than can be said for some of the conservative on radio, TV & newspapers!

    END THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN & IRAQ BRING OUR TROOPS HOME! EIGHT YEARS IS ENOUGH WASTE OF LIVES AND MONEY!

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  24. TOM DALLAS TX

    The only reason that people are frustrated is because the Republican party is doing everything it can to make the President look bad. They are the reason this country is in the state it's in. They are all greedy and sucking the life, hopes an any dignity, out of the people. They will not even help the people of this country to have fare medical coverage because they say it will make to much competition. It's not competition there afraid of, it's because the people will see them for the greedy money sucking pig's they are.

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  25. W. Cunningham

    Steele is the NUT that compared the North Korean leader with President Obama when discussing the song that one school sung in a praise of Obama. Steele obviously is a poor student of history concerning acts of violence and the motivation behind such inhuman actions.

    September 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
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