April 5th, 2010
10:37 AM ET
5 years ago

Steele says he has 'slimmer margin' for error

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending.
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending.

(CNN) – Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending, and says he has a "slimmer margin for error" because he is African-American.

"Barack Obama has a slimmer margin," Steele said in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America.' "We all - a lot of folks do. I mean, it's a different role for me to play and others to play. And that's just the reality of it. It's more of because you're not somebody they know. I am not a Washington insider even though I grew up in DC. My view of politics is much more grassroots-oriented. It's not old-boy-network-oriented."

The interview was Steele's first since reports surfaced that the RNC paid for a night out at a risqué Hollywood nightclub. Steele has also come under criticism for the costs associated with his use of private jets, limousines, and five-star hotels.

News of the excessive expenditures are the latest in a series of gaffes involving Steele – the party's chairman since January of 2009 - leading some Republicans to privately and publicly question whether he is the best leader for the GOP going into a crucial round of midterm elections.

"This kind of thing has got to stop or they won't get any contributions," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said on Fox News Sunday. "The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way."

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council - an influential social conservative organization - also urged supporters last week to stop donating to the RNC and instead contribute to its own coffers or to candidates with like-minded goals.

And a group of influential Republicans launched a new independent organization last week with the goal of raising over $50 million to help their party topple Democrats in this year's midterm elections. With its ambitious fundraising goal, the new group, called American Crossroads, is likely to compete with many of the same donors the RNC is targeting.

But In his interview Monday, Steele maintained he is the right leader for the organization and touted his fundraising success since assuming the chairmanship 14 months ago.

"At the end of the day, I've raised more than the Democrats in seven out of 12 months," he said. "I carried over the same amount of money as the [Democratic National Committee] in 2010. We had a very good march and will have a very good April. The bottom line is I hear my donors, I hear the base out there, I hear the leadership. "

Federal Election Commission reports filed at the end of February showed the RNC with more than $9 million cash on hand while the DNC reported $10.7 million in the bank. But the RNC had no debt at the time while the DNC reported close to $4 million in debt.

UPDATE: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday "Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card, it's the credit card."


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soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. Elle in WA

    Wow, way to play the race card. Are you serious? You think that because your skin is a shade darker than mine that you have a slimmer margin for mistakes? I don't see anyone holding back on President Obama, nor giving him a harder time. Seems pretty equal to me. Same with you. The only difference is that you're an idiot and he isn't.

    April 5, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  2. David

    Then stop acting like a GOP Washington insider!

    April 5, 2010 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  3. travis

    For the Republican Party to talk & talk& talk about individual responsibility all the time you would think they would actually try it sometime!C'mon a smaller margin for error because your black? if you were white you wouldve lost your job already! they ar keepin you around because ur black & they don't wanna fire the 1st african american RNC leader especially because they have horrible relations with the african american community.someone please remind him that the republicans are a party by white people for white peolpe! he's was given the job to be the counter balance to president obama not because they care @ all about non-whites & our struggles!

    April 5, 2010 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  4. Baby Boomer

    Mr. Steele is right about there being a slimmer margin for error. It's not something we opening talk about but most black folks in the Corp. world, politics, etc. know that we need to be prepared to do 120% to others 80 or 90%.
    I'm sure some will argue but unless you've walked a mile in the shoes of those of us trying to manage in those environments, you really don't know.

    Too bad Steele just spent the last 18 months trying to bury President Obama knowing that situation to be true. So, he gets what he gets as far as I'm concerned.

    April 5, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  5. Doraine Gordon

    I wondered how long it would take Steele to say people are picking on him because he is black. Another whining feel sorry for himself Republcan. That's all he is. He was given a little authority and access to money and he went hog wild. Happens all the time. I guess the RNC is stuck with him since they all seem afraid to cross him. I think the donors are wise to stop contributig to the RNC. They can send their money to the Candidate of their choice. At least that way they will know the Candidate got the donation.

    April 5, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. Casy

    Michael Steele is an embarassment! And Obama is no better!

    April 5, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  7. If We Can Defeat Him On Healthcare, It Will Be His Waterloo

    Once again, Steele plays the "hypocrite" card.

    April 5, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  8. Howard

    What surprised me most was the way he was dressed for his appearance on Good Morning America. This man always wears a tie–always looks fastidious. Not so this morning. We know about body language but "appearance language" can be just as important. He seemed to be saying "I'm going to play my own game and I'll dress the way I want to. I figure I'm on my way out and a tie is not going to save me now."

    April 5, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  9. will

    Ooooh! Now he wants to play the race card? What a loser!!! Where has his head been all this time? Thinking he was put in that position because he is such a great leader and so admired by the Repugs?!?!?! You Repugs need to get rid of this guy! I think you're all idiots, but he takes the cake!

    April 5, 2010 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  10. Paul

    Keep playin' that race card, Steele. It's probably worn out by now.

    April 5, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  11. Eli

    Clarence Thomas and Condoleeza Rice both had the same 'slimmer margin of error", especially Judge Thomas who had almost zero margin; but I don't recall either one bringing it up.

    My classmate of 50 years ago was raised in a community close to 95% white, yet she rose above and beyond, and eventually became superintendent of our city schools.

    Never heard complaining from her in 3 years of high school about any margin – she just did the work and excelled on her own.

    April 5, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. newsie34

    steele and palin.... the gift that just keeps on giving!

    April 5, 2010 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. Anonymous

    STTEELE
    Are you kidding?
    How about doing your job and not playing the race card to defend yourself? Any problems you have had are your own doing.
    I'm surprised you didn't blame the Democrats like you do for everything else.

    April 5, 2010 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  14. Amanda in Colorado

    Calling Steele an uncle Tom is an insult to Uncle Toms every where. If he is a victum of his color, as an older African American, I say good!!!!! Prehaps he now he knows how the rest of African American all over this great land of ours feels and have felt for years.

    April 5, 2010 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  15. Julio

    No Mr. Steele,

    Stop Whining show the party you can do better. Come on You are not Black you are REPUBLICAN.

    If you were black the party would have more African Americans members.

    April 5, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. Gene from Georgia

    Dr. King dreamed of the day when people would be judged, not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Unfortunately for Mr. Steele and his crowd, that day might actually be here.

    April 5, 2010 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  17. Hendrik

    Think not that this is limited to Mikey. This is the GOP in action. Morons.

    April 5, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  18. carmikal

    Ohhhh, so he is black! Based on how he goes after Obama, I thought that he might have figured that the same racially influenced lack of patience Obama is receiving, would skip over Steele because he is a republican. Welcome back to reality!!

    April 5, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  19. Shawn

    This guy is such a doofus. Aren't Republicans embarrassed?

    April 5, 2010 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  20. Uh Oh

    Well, well. Looks like this little zinger the Man of Steele put out onto the airwaves this morning just cost the RNC their top fundraiser. He just resigned this morning and word has it there are more key fundraisers to follow suit.

    What say you now, Mr. Steele?

    April 5, 2010 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  21. Jonathan

    Republicans – attack Hillary Clinton for acting like gender matters, then playing the gender card over and over once they get a female VP.

    Attack Democrats for acting like race matters, then playing the race card over and over once they get a non-White Supreme Court justice and RNC chair.

    Attack Democrats for supporting Medicare and "scaring" the elderly, then standing behind Medicare like it was their idea and doing all they can to scare the elderly with "death panels" the second it's politically convenient.

    Is there any hypocrisy that Republicans can't show? Next thing you know, all those men who attacked Clinton will turn out to have their own affairs. Oh wait, already happened....well, maybe all the anti-gay politicians will have gay sex scandals...oh, wait....already happened.

    April 5, 2010 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  22. Dave

    Actually, if you follow the lefts version of everyone being "equal" he has a larger margin for error because he is black.

    The reason for the slimmer margin for error is because he is Republican. Because they have values and morals, the left (and the media) holds them to higher standards. they don't seem to grasp the idea that we are all human and all make mistakes, but it does not mean you don't set goals and astrive for a certain level of morailty and values.... unlike most on the left.

    April 5, 2010 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  23. Alan

    So - Steele is now faced with a tighter leach after he was put into his position BECAUSE the GOP desperately needed a black man somewhere in the organization to hopefully counter Obama?

    Now that they see it is a bad choice let's watch how Steele responds when they decide to let him go. You ain't BEGUN to see the race card played yet.

    April 5, 2010 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. Chub

    If "Mike," were to quite himself for a short period of time and listen to what he is saying, he might have a totally different outlook on this situation.

    April 5, 2010 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  25. Walter

    Hmm. Maybe he does have a slimmer margin of error. But is that an excuse that the President has ever made?

    April 5, 2010 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
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