January 8th, 2010
10:23 AM ET
5 years ago

GOP aides clash over Michael Steele

Steele is under fire from members of his own party.
Steele is under fire from members of his own party.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – GOP tempers flared Wednesday during a routine conference call when House and Senate leadership aides confronted Republican National Committee staffers over recent comments by party chairman Michael Steele.

At issue was Steele's prediction earlier this week during his nationwide book tour that the GOP would not take back the House in November - comments that infuriated Republican strategists on Capitol Hill, who decided to broach the topic during Wednesday's call.

The dispute - first reported by Hotline On Call - occurred on a daily strategy call with aides from Republican leadership offices in the House and Senate along with RNC officials.

According to a senior House aide on the conference call, a Senate staffer said the chairman was trampling on the GOP's message in a week that saw several high-profile Democratic retirements. The Senate aide told RNC staffers to do a better job controlling their chairman.

"He is digging himself deeper," the Senate aide griped about Steele, according to the House source. "He's got to stop and put and end to this thing."

RNC Research Director Jeff Berkowitz jumped in and "offered a hard defense of Steele," according to the senior House aide. Berkowitz shot back that the Senate official was "out of line," which then set off a round of "bickering," the House aide told CNN.

A House aide chimed in to express sympathy with the plight of Steele's advisers, but said the chairman's remarks had the potential to do serious damage to fundraising, candidate recruiting and voter motivation ahead of the midterm elections. "You guys got to tell us how long this is going to last," the House aide said. "Our phones are ringing off the hook. He is putting our bosses in difficult positions."

The call ended shortly thereafter. Asked for comment on the flare-up, RNC spokeswoman Gail Gitcho e-mailed: "Not commenting on staff calls."

The senior House aide later told CNN that congressional Republicans have "confronted" Steele over the past year about some of his comments.

"He has been confronted numerous times by Senate leaders and House leaders over the last year," the aide said. "They have confronted him about speaking about things he shouldn't be speaking about, whether it's Senate policy or House policy."

"Today, he threw a temper tantrum and told people to shut up," the aide said, referring to an ABC interview in which Steele lashed out at his critics. "At this point, he needs to look in the mirror."

Story updated at 9:20 p.m. EST


Filed under: 2010 • Michael Steele • RNC
soundoff (246 Responses)
  1. ABQ Moderate

    Such typical behavior of the Republicans.

    January 8, 2010 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  2. Dave

    Speaks before he thinks. Would be a good replacement for Biden. By the way where is Biden?

    January 8, 2010 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  3. martin

    Don't worry, Rush will straighten him out.

    January 8, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  4. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    It doesn't sound like he is going to be long for this post. If Steele calls them as he sees them, the GOP will be very unhappy with him and force him out. I can see that happening. The Democrats weren't happy with Rendell when he stated he wasn't thrilled with Gore's performance during a presidential debate in 2000. You can't be a realist or a pundit when holding a job like this. I am guessing someone didn't tell that to Steele. Part of the job is being the chief party cheerleader.

    January 8, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  5. NYbywayof Texas

    Ahh!!! Devisiveness is hallmark of collapse!

    January 8, 2010 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. Grundoon

    The GOP says the number of House and Senate Democrats not seeking re-election due to retirement or other reasons shows the party's in trouble. Using that logic the Republican party is in bigger trouble since more of them, in both the House and Senate, aren't running for re-election. Keep drinkin' the GOP kool-aid . . .

    January 8, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  7. scott

    Why not list the names of the people that did the talking

    January 8, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  8. Beeker25

    Michael Steele is showing the hard facts something the Senate and House leaders' aides refused to acknowledge; stating "confronted him about speaking about things he shouldn't be speaking about" and that speaks volume on why they selected him as a poster boy of what's wrong about the party.

    In summary, pass the popcorn....stay tuned.

    January 8, 2010 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  9. W Spivey

    Okay kids, if you can't play nice, go to your rooms.

    January 8, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  10. pinkette

    Micheal Steele has a job so simple that a talking parrot could do it. He just gets up every morning, looks at the news to find out what Obama is doing and saying, schedules an interview on Fox news, gets on T.V. and simply opposes and complains about whatever Obama is doing or saying. This is a job where no independent thought is necessary. Remember, this is a guy who is in opposition to the President of the United States reciept of the Nobel Peace prize. Steele gets paid to badmouth Obama. When he tries to talk about something else, he gets himself in trouble with his party. The party wants him to stick to his thoughtless job of badmouthing Obama.

    January 8, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  11. freelance

    Hey! He's talking about reality here, and that's going against the party! We're only down 79 seats. And Obama's gonna be impeached. And the Tea Party is gonna take back the country on April 15th. And...

    January 8, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  12. Navy Vet

    The Senate aide told RNC staffers to do a better job controlling their chairman. [sic]

    Yes Mr. Steele, remember who you serve, your Republican political masters who gave you this position to be the Republicans black counterpart to our first black President.

    You should know by now that you are only allowed to say what you are told to.

    January 8, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  13. Gary

    I'm surprised that Mikey Steele has kept this job this long. The GOP does need some sort of token on hand for symbolism.

    January 8, 2010 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  14. Joe

    Its all about party strategy with these guys. Their allegence is clear and its not to the American people.

    January 8, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. terra

    Chairman Steele is simply telling the truth. I'm a Republican, and would like to see a Republican majority in the House, but the present leaders frittered their advantage away, and until they understand why they did, which was by abandoning Republican fiscal conservative principles in favor of the egotistical belief that their majority was safe for years and doing what they wanted, they don't deserve power.

    January 8, 2010 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. diridi

    I do not vote GOP thugs any more....at all...ok.

    January 8, 2010 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  17. Clutch

    Tea partying idiots. say no more.

    January 8, 2010 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  18. walleye

    Another example of the GOP infighting that has all but eliminated them from any relevance.

    January 8, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  19. Chris - Denver

    Stand back and watch the Republican party complete its self-destruction. If you believe in limited government, don't you dare vote for a Republican!

    January 8, 2010 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  20. Jeff

    Only CNN or MSNBC would print this drivel.. Two "aides" offer their opinions on a statement made by RNC Chairman Steele and it's front page.. I suppose nobody ever thought DNC Chair Dean said something stupid.... What's next? A CNN exclusive " Around the Coffee Pot"

    January 8, 2010 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  21. kids... kids...

    Settle down or no dinner.

    January 8, 2010 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  22. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Steele is a pompous moron.... but then so are most republicans.

    January 8, 2010 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. Rob R

    Another token down...Rubio is next...

    January 8, 2010 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  24. FM

    Why do some people hate to hear the truth and the reality??? Mr. Steele's prediction is quite right. GOP will not take back the house come November. I too fully agree with him.

    January 8, 2010 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  25. Kevin Schuder

    Michael Steele is being shouted at for a momentary lapse of honesty.... he made the mistake of being a republican and telling the truth.
    The only consistently honest republican seems to be Ron Paul, but some of his market-worshipping policies would be ruinous to a society where financial might isn't always right.
    I was hoping republicans would learn a thing or two from Obama's poise in cleaning up the financial and foreign policy mess the GOP got us into... he is doing the people's work, and I was hoping the GOP would see this example, grow a pair, and put the country ahead of their dying careers.
    Exploiting ignorance based fears to grab power should isn't real leadership... republicans are acting like petulant children, not men. Where is the leadership?

    January 8, 2010 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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