August 5th, 2009
04:07 PM ET
13 years ago

Steele denies RNC role in town hall protests

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended the GOP's decision to automatically re-direct angry liberal callers to the Democratic National Committee Wednesday, telling reporters he "thought it was a good idea."

"Don't think you're going to direct a bunch of angry liberals to call the RNC when I know full well what that's all about," Steele said during an RNC conference call. "I get....the joke." He said he thought those critics should talk to their own party, who held responsible for "ginning this up."

Earlier in the day, a new DNC Web ad accused the Republican Party of "inciting mobs" to deliberately disrupt congressional town hall meetings where the Obama health care plan was being discussed, and asked viewers to call the RNC to register their disapproval. The RNC changed their phone menu so that those callers were directed to press a button that automatically transferred their call to the DNC.

Steele dismissed questions over whether the GOP move to deflect critical calls was hypocritical in light of recent criticism of Democrats for "demonizing" the town hall protestors, and denied the Republican Party had any role in organizing the confrontations.

"We're not inciting anyone to go out and disrupt anything," said Steele. "We're not organizing the town halls," only encouraging individuals to visit their congressman or senator to "express their point of view."

"There's no upside for the Republican Party [in the protests]," he said later in the call. "That's not something that's coordinated or deliberately set in motion by me or anyone in the state party.

"...To sit back and say this is a Republican cabal is a bunch of baloney. And you can substitute that 'b' for something else if you want."

Later, a frustrated Steele shot down another question about the GOP's view of the recent chaos at congressional town halls. "I'll speak slowly. There's legitimacy to the protest. But how people protest…. I have no control over."

He added that there was nothing unusual about the development, and that he did not understand why the face-offs were drawing media attention. "Why is it so out of the ordinary that the American people should stand up and say, 'I have a concern about something the government is going to do?'

"… I'm not telling people to go out and be disruptive, because there's no upside to doing that. We want to have a legitimate debate…there's no upside for us in starting a fight with the Democratic Party, or with elected officials that we disagree with."

Filed under: Michael Steele
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Neutralizer

    When it comes to tea party supporters they're all from different walks of life and political affiliation, I've attended to few of them thru invitation by my buddies who used to support Obambi and registered democraps. If democraps are angry with their own party, independents and republicans are angriers especially those who voted for him last year.

    August 5, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  2. Change in America

    This sad Gop is so childish and MAD because Obama is the president....We the American people will vote REPUBLICANS out the office 2012

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Lisa P

    So I guess it's true: no one tells Michael Steele anything.

    My friend from Green Bay confirms that the troublemakers there were all (or mostly?) from out of state. I'm sure she'd be happy to let Michael Steele know that, but instead it looks like she'll be one more angry liberal for the DNC to add to their list. Great move, RNC!

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. malclave

    How was Steele dressed when he said this.

    For that matter, how were the DNC people dressed when they decided to tell their Astroturfers to call the GOP?

    According to Sen. Boxer, that is the primary way to tell if someone is sincere... if they are dressed well, you know they're liars.

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Idiot_Pelosi

    Obummer and the DUMocrats are so fool of it.

    OBAMA trying to deflect the real opinions.

    Look at all the POLL NUMBERS.....

    Funny, NBC, Washington Post, Gallup, etc. polls all seem to match the mood of these meetings.

    Obama and theDEMOCRATS proven to LIE again.

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. Steve J, Michigan

    I know if I went to one of these meetings to get more info from my congressman and the meeting was disrupted I'd me pretty miffed about it.. The right to protest has limits..What about the rights of the other people attending the meeting? Your rights do not supercede mine.. Anyone heard of disorderly conduct.. Arrest them.


    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  7. RR

    The democrats have the white house and a filibuster proof majority in congress, and they are STILL blaming the GOP and hiding from their own failures.

    Do they think we're that stupid?

    how about the dems quit whining and playing the blame game and start getting things accomplished!

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  8. Anne E.

    Steele wouldn't have had the gray matter for this sort of thing; this has Karl Rove's name all over it. Rove may be in another position altogether, but make no mistakes - he's still calling the shots.

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. big papa

    If Democrats want to hold civil town hall mtgs...

    ...with NO interference from lynch mob conservative traitors...

    ...all they have to do is hold them in large inner-city venues...

    ...where large minority populations live...

    ...ever notice the dearth of minorities in these town hall mtgs where the Obama-hating traitors act up?

    ...Hold these mtgs in Detroit, Chicago, Brooklyn, or L.A....

    ...I guarantee there won't be these disruptions, and if there are they'll be quelled in a nano-second...

    ...but the wingers won't go near the inner cities...

    August 5, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. hadelaide

    Didn't expect you to have balls and admit. After all, gop cannot admit where they went wrong over the past decades.

    August 5, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. Terik Ororke

    It is obvious that the Republicans could have done something about health care under the bush years but were too involved with the providers as their friends. Now they want to keep the status quo which means favoring the health care industry that is ripping off Americans –compare health care here with health care in Germany–Under the guise of free enterprise, the Republicans have always favored business...thus we have the crash of Wall street, the mortgage debacle and the rest is hsiotory and busness as usual.

    August 5, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  12. lil

    Steele doesnt know what the gop is doing he's not in the loop. they dont tell him anything. Steele is a figure head.

    August 5, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  13. T'SAH from Virginia

    YES U ARE!!! Stop Lying!!! It hurts me to see that the Republicans put an African American on the 'front line' so when things go wrong, he can be blamed.... Come on NOW! A black African-American heading the RNC?????

    I betcha by golly they "gringe" in the background because STEELE is on the frontline – but the REPUBS "grin and bear it"... LOL

    Jeez man – come to the DNC side and REALLY be worth something !!!

    August 5, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  14. history repeats

    the funniest part about these fools is they were NOT protesting the war at all EVEN though it was a complete FAILURE. where was their patriotism then? where was the accountability? these people pretend they are americans, but they arent. they pretend to protest but they dont! they are angry about FIXING our BROKEN health care system!!! but not about a war that we went in for WMDs when there wasnt! why werent they demanding impeachment?! why werent they worried about the billions of dollars lost back then? why did they not care about the WAISTED money taxpayers spent on NO-BID CONTRACTS to contractors?!?!?! but health care is just crossing the line!! stupidity is too good of a label for these people!!!

    August 5, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  15. Miguel

    I'm tired of this blame game! The DNC and Presidential staff/Ofc are really disregarding the REAL CONCERNS it's citizens have about the type of Healthcare Reform they want to bring about. The bickering needs to stop, and real debate needs to ensue about costs/regulation/coverage/premiums/copays/conditions/exclusionstortreform of what a Single Payer Government Run Healthcare will look like. I'm not holding my breath or keeping my hopes up on REAL healthcare reform.

    August 5, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. phyllis

    I think that the GOP is a mob, always has been a mob. They are like the SS in WWT, a bunch of bullies, I wish they could change their ways, and be nice, but I don't think that is going to happen, after all you have people like Rush and Dick Cheney running things over at the GOP. That if what i call a mob. Thank you.

    August 5, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. Grrr-awful-o

    The debt keeps mounting, the results keep failing to meet the stated objectives, the goal posts keep getting moved and the Dems can't believe that real live Americans are losing faith in what they're doing (which is coming at an enormous expense!). This is not the change that was advertised and not one I can believe in. No I can't!

    This healthcare plan is a failure. It may be passed in Congress and signed into legislation but the whole thing is doomed for reasons that are now becoming clear to millions of us. And we'll be saddled with a huge debt... and denied healthcare when we're too sick. We won't even get proper testing eventually. This will be a lasting Democratic legacy after it passes and not a good one. And it will all be George Bush's fault. Sad!

    August 5, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Steele may not have any direct role or knowledge about this, but it is more likely that the conservatives that rule the RNC had knowledge about this. I would like Steele to at least tell these people to behave in a civil fashion. If they disagree, then voice it properly. There is no need to act like barbarians and thugs.

    August 5, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  19. Matt Jones

    Mr. Steele, more than most, should be concerned about the growing mob action his party is (at least) inspiring. Less than 50 years ago, similar mobs would have lynched someone like him...

    Redirecting angry callers is just another demonstration of the cowardice we're all used to from the Republican party – hawks who evade military service, womanizers who proclaim "family values", and toe-tappers who condemn gay marriage.

    August 5, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  20. John, Brooklyn, New York

    Whether the GOP is directly involved or not, they are once again using their hate- and fear-mongering surrogates to do the dirty work so that Steele and his cronies can claim they had no visibility to the mobsters.

    August 5, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  21. Dana

    Republicans are losing their traction so, they will try anything to try and gain it back. Keep doing what you are doing because it will guarantee 8 more years of Obama. When they tripped with Sotomayor, that just handed Obama, Hispanic votes. When Lou Dobbed questioned Obama citizenship, along with conservatives, they infuriated people. Now they are trying to stop the Healthcare with all costs and people are suffering and need care!! Conservatives can forget about 2010 and 2012!! Conservatives only rally their own base. You need more ethnics groups to win. And by 2020, the minority will be the majority and the Conservatives will have big problems. Conservatives need to get rid of that hate, divide and racism attitude towards other ethnic groups or they will be out of office for a long, long, long time!!

    August 5, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  22. Simmy

    I don't believe a word Steele says.......Those meetings have the DNA of a gansta thug-lican....The only thing these mobsters don't have (yet) are burning torches.....By next week they'll be running through towns with torches).....Oh me, oh my, me thinks they are protesting way too much....Makes me certain that change is on the way....The 'Obama Man' is really on to something....

    August 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  23. well...

    So he's well aware that they scare tactics and Faux army are bad publicity once again... Too bad they can't wash the stink away that easy

    August 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  24. Cathy in AZ

    Mr Steele can deny all he wants – this SMACKS of GOP antics. Instead of a healthy debate on the merits of health care reform, the GOP has shipped in people who are not from those districts to disrupt the process. I am not in support of all the reform measures but it would be nice to be able to carry on a civil debate. These disruptions are similar to what occured in Florida following the Gore-Bush election, similar to the hate retorhic displayed during the McCain-Palin campagin – has Karl Rove written all over it. AND with the RNC forwarding the angry calls coming into their headquarters to the DNC why would we not believe this behavior. Grow up GOP children, this is why you lost!

    August 5, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  25. Carl from MI

    Both Steele and the RNC are jokes. They can't even take responsibility for their own hatred and the results from it.

    Wake up, America!! Do you really want to vote Republican this fall?

    August 5, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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