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. J-STIZLE ( Oakland, Calif. )

    Michael Steele is neither an idiot or hipocrite. He just said that he applauds the efforts of the director of Acorn for trying to weed out the bad apples within their organization. Whats wrong with that ? Of course the right wing idealogues within the Republican party are going to disagree with him. And many within the Democratic party are going to call him confused. But there is absolutely nothing wrong with what he said. The problem with Steele is that he is caught up within the contradictions of his ( Republican ) party. He can't win for losing.
    In 2009 the Republican party is becoming more and more archaic.
    Their chances of re-taking the White House in 2012 are slim to none.

    October 5, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. Tom L

    I'm trying to understand from all of these democrats on here why it matters that Mr. Steele is black.

    Why do you keep bringing it up?

    October 5, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. Ted

    Steele is a moron.

    October 5, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. What a Joke

    Ok it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that Michael Steele, just like everyone else, will say things to fit the need at any given time. When he is talking to a historically black college with low income surrounding neighborhoods, he has nothing but kind words, when he is in front of Fox News, he says something else. Consistency is the key people. I'm sure if Rush knocks him down again, he will recant. Just give him time.

    October 5, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  5. JonDie

    Who cares what this fool says...about anything?

    October 5, 2009 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  6. T'SAH from Virginia

    There he goes again – trying to STEELE the show!! This time, he's in an audience that resembles him!!! Like I said before – he is put on the FRONTLINE by the REPUBLI-CAN'Ts and like a PUPPET, he is told what to say – when to say it – and how to say it

    We're smarter than that STEELE – let's see you praise ACORN in front of your white constituents!!!

    October 5, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  7. Chris - Denver

    Nice. I can't wait to hear the drumbeat from Fox News demanding his resignation! I won't hold my breath.

    October 5, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  8. US territories

    While you're worrying about ACORN Mr. Steele, please don't forget that the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico cannot be left out of the health care debate. We have Republicans here too

    October 5, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  9. coffic

    I like Michael, but, he seems to be a bit off his game. I don't know if there was a question from a college student (he should have expected one) about ACORN, or he brought it up himself (which would have been foolish). However, he did say that ACORN had done some good stuff, but, basically, the deep-rooted corruption had so tainted it that there would be little confidence or trust in it in the future. Bertha is a big part of the problem, and I haven't seen that she has done anything but try to gloss over the corruption and failings, but, maybe I missed it. He probably should have tried to find a way to refuse the college's invitation, because he was addressing a predominantly black audience and talking about a group which has predominantly "helped" blacks, about a very nasty problem within the group. The problem is that he is the chairman of the RNC, which, for reasons I don't understand, means that he was from the "enemy" party. Very tricky.

    October 5, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. Fed-UP

    I can understand the outrage directed at ACORN, and its employees, but c'mon now! In a matter of days our "do nothing" representatives are able to cut off all federal funds to this organization. Meanwhile the fat cats on Wall Street lead us to the brink of an economic collapse with their "nefarious activities," and they get a bailout, little investigation, and they're right back to business as usual! Now ask yourself, honestly, which of these crimes demands a quicker, heavy-handed response from our representatives in Congress?

    October 5, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  11. m jeff

    Every Company or organization has a few crooks, you can start with the Banks and Insurance companies. If you want to get rid of ACORN, why not get rid of all of them.

    October 5, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  12. Chuck Anaheim,Ca.

    Give the guy a little break, he's just pandering to the hicks and hacks that make up what was the republican party.

    October 5, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  13. John Demello

    Hey we won get over it, It is the democrats who have been raiding the treasury to give to every person who helps them on the road to being a Politician just like OBONO has done. Open your eyes and get a clue.

    October 5, 2009 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  14. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    They could have at least acknowledged that the name of the historicaly black college in Arkansas is Univ of Arkansas, Pine Bluff.

    October 5, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. Jilli

    Uncle Mike Steele is a spineless buffoon.

    October 5, 2009 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  16. S.

    I don't see how this makes him a hypocrite. Circumstances simply changed when those videotapes came out. Even Bertha Lewis herself seems to have changed. I think a lot of people who supported Acorn became critics once those tapes came out.

    Think of it like this. You love your kids and stand by them. You praise the good that they do, but when they do wrong (break a law, for example), you let them know they did wrong. That doesn't mean you love them any less. You don't suddenly change your tune and say that child is corrupt because they broke a law.

    Of course Acorn has done some good for the poor. That's not the question. The question is: Does the good outweigh the bad, especially now that we've seen the video tapes?

    October 5, 2009 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  17. david

    steele speaks out of both sides of his mouth. he is not to be trusted. acorn is a fraud and everyone in it should be tainted as a fraud.

    October 5, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  18. Mamixztwo

    in typical Republican style, he is speaking from both sides of his mouth..what a snake.

    Little does he know, the black community isn't falling for his political games. He is only insulting their intelligence and they know it.

    October 5, 2009 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  19. TH - ATL

    Steele... Why must you stoop to the all low levels of the democratic party? I have admired you in the past but you screwed that up with this democratic approach. What, when you are talking to your cousins you are afraid to stand for what got you elected to your position. You should cross party lines because you are not wanted on the Republican Team. I'm not sure if this is where I should be anymore.

    October 5, 2009 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  20. MsDp

    Yep, that's just like a snake. Steele, you are a SNAKE. No one trust you and no one believes you. Just go a way, I have no respect for you. You stand for nothing and fall for every thing. Sit down, be quiet, just go a way!!!!!

    October 5, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  21. Dan, TX

    Steele is correct, ACORN is bad and it is good. It is incompetent and led by good people. I like how the republicans are saying how Rush Limbaugh is a voice for many people, and that he is a clown. The type of leadership that Steele is showing is present throughout the republican party.

    October 5, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  22. Cynthia - Arkansas

    I guess you all heard that in the Republicans push to take down an organization that registers DEMOCRATIC voters, they also made a lot of trouble to all the the war profiteering contractors. They can't take the federal money away from Acorn, who by the way has not been convicted of anything illegal, without taking it from them.

    October 5, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  23. OneWiseGuy

    Enough about ACORN for goodness sake. Yes, Steele spoke highly of the group. McCain spoke highly of the group. The group has done good things as well as bad. It is not a partisan issue and in my mind a non issue altogether.

    October 5, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  24. They call me "tater salad"

    Is Micheal Steele talking in circles again?.......Yawn.

    October 5, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  25. Blue

    Steele is a dumb, dumb.

    October 5, 2009 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
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