October 5th, 2009
06:05 PM ET
5 years ago

Steele applauded ACORN leader in speech

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been harshly critical of ACORN.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been harshly critical of ACORN.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Like other GOP leaders, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele took a harsh tone toward ACORN last month after several of the group's employees were caught on tape offering financial advice to activists posing undercover as a pimp and prostitute.

On September 15, after the Senate voted to defund the community organizing group, Steele released a statement accusing ACORN of "nefarious activities," saying it uses "illegal means to achieve its ends." A few days later, on September 24, Steele called for congressional Democrats to investigate the "corrupt organization" and said damage control efforts by ACORN officials were "insulting."

But during a speaking appearance in the days between issuing those two statements, Steele had kind words for ACORN and its CEO, Bertha Lewis, who happened to be guiding that so-called damage control.

Appearing September 21 at Philander Smith College, a historically black college in Arkansas, the RNC chairman spoke diplomatically of the group and its history of organizing in low-income communities.

"The organization has a problem that it needs to deal with," Steele told the audience in remarks that were recorded and posted on YouTube over the weekend. "I will say that current head of the organization, she has done a phenomenal job of getting out in front of it. I applaud her. I take her at her word that she wants to make sure that the bad apples are thrown out."

Steele reminded the crowd that ACORN has "been around a long time."

"Now, I'm not a big fan of ACORN for a whole lot of reasons because of my own dealings with some of their folks over the years," he continued. "But I do respect that it has a history of working the community and helping the poor. That unfortunately has been tainted in such a way that it now casts doubt on the entire organization."

Steele said he hopes ACORN's problems "can get rectified" but said the group will have to live with "the stigma of the bad acts" that have grabbed headlines.

"So we'll see how this plays out," he said.

But three days later, in his statement calling on Democrats to investigate the group, Steele seemed to have made up his mind about the group's future. ACORN, he said, "should never be allowed near another voter registration effort again."

RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho denied any disconnect between Steele's statements and his remarks in Arkansas.

"Chairman Steele has been consistent in his profound disappointment with ACORN and believes that until ACORN eliminates their deep and undeniable corruption, the organization shouldn't be allowed near a ballot box or voter registration effort," she said in an e-mail to CNN.


Filed under: ACORN • Michael Steele • RNC
soundoff (179 Responses)
  1. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    GOP leaders, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele should be checking into all the 300 or 400 company that have headquarter else where to keep from paying taxes or financial advice. to United States. CNN why everytime you show Michael Steele he got his mouth open like he got something to say is this the same picture all the time.

    October 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Michael

    I have been consistent in my profound disappointment with the GOP and believe that until the GOP eliminates their deep and undeniable corruption, the organization shouldn't be allowed near a ballot box or voter registration effort.

    Corrected!

    October 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. A concern Citizen

    Steele is a puppet: "a Marionette"

    October 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  4. Chris

    Cue the rightwingnut cranial explosions....

    POPPOPPOP!!

    October 5, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. Barbara - Atlanta GA

    Will the real Michael Steele, please stand up?

    October 5, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. Chrris in NC

    Is this supposed to be controversial or hypocritical? Steele simply said he admires the way that the leader of the organization has handled the crisis, and he takes her at her word that she wants to clean it up. He did not "applaud ACORN" the way CNN suggests. This is trashy "reporting," if you can even call it that. And I'm not even a Republican!

    October 5, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  7. Victim of conservative ignorance..Texas..

    Lets hope they keep the language in the bill to shut down ACORN that can be used to do the same thing to Boeing and Blackwater. I would be fine with cutting off money to ALL cheating contractors, not just the one that is a political hot potato at the moment. But I am willing to bet they will reword the final bill to make sure it doesn't affect the other crooks that steal even more from us.

    October 5, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  8. Richp

    Ahhh, interesting.

    October 5, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  9. Traj

    This site never posts my comment.. No matter how good or bad. I wonder why is that?

    October 5, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. Trooper

    This is not unusual. Blacks are going to support blacks no matter what. It was evident with the OJ trial and with Colin Powell supporting Obama. You can count on it.

    October 5, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. Crazy Harry

    Another sad story from the Republican party. A true embarrassment to the USA.

    October 5, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  12. David Vitter, Larry Craig and Mark Foley were just the beginning

    Steele is the individual selected by the Republican Party to be its national leader.
    Steele praises ACORN.
    Ergo, the Republican Party praises ACORN.
    Flip-floppin' Steele, the gift that keeps on giving (to Democrats).

    October 5, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  13. Glennis

    I have one word for him: idiot.

    October 5, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  14. Gary

    When in Rome..
    You say what makes the room happy, but you forgot about the media.
    Hard to believe you are looking dumber.

    October 5, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  15. Re-Independent Again

    Now, if we could only link President Obama to ACORN in some manner, then mistconstrue the link to make it seem more solid. We could then suggest, although it's impossible, that ACORN soley got him elected by registering "Mickey Mouse," whether or not "Mickey" voted.

    Then Americans will see that it's an "urban" grassroots organization, urban then links to African American and then...Ta'da! Concrete Link to Obama.

    Let's celebrate over at Glenn Beck's 5 million dollar double-wide trailer!

    October 5, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  16. Bill

    Which goes to show Blacks have racism at their core. So sad.

    October 5, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  17. John Demello

    This is exactly why we need to get rid of all of them and start over. This time we keep the Constitution.
    As a Republican, I am disgusted with both parties. The Democrats want to sell the country out by bankrupting it. The Republicans cannot seem to keep the story straight.

    October 5, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  18. rms

    Wow. I wonder what throwing out the bad apples in the republican party would consist of. Would there be anyone left who wasn't building an ark in their garage?

    October 5, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. Jon

    this is news?

    October 5, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. Rob

    Good for him! He was right to do that.

    October 5, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Stu

    ACORN is just a lousy group period. They would do better to focus their efforts on strenghtening the family in blighted areas (no more welfare babies with no dads around), working on ridding the same areas of drugs and gangs, and working on ridding this country of a victimization mentality.

    October 5, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. Start from scratch.........

    I applaud too....so we can rebuild a bigger and better Organization for ensuring ALL have a voice in voting during elections. this time.....specific rules and protocol will be followed.

    October 5, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Brian MacDougall

    Wait... situational messaging. Isn't that a liberal disease?

    October 5, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  24. Mark My Words

    Steele and Acorn just need to go away.

    October 5, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. Jeff

    Welcome to your epiphany GOP Chairman Steele...Yes, your harsh criticism and those of other GOP and Dems may come back to bite...in the form of votes. ACORN is far from perfect, however, there are many white collar corporate criminals guilty of equal or worse activities that cost the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars more than ACORN..."cooked books", closed corporate/ government meetings/ deals (Cheney, energy meetings) , and "creative" tax shields, for example...need I say more?

    October 5, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
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