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. D. Tree

    The GOP is only going to make people more mad by these actions.

    I wonder if the GOP is ever going to figure it out: the more they avoid responsibility and fail to offer real solutions, the more they will lose.

    August 5, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  2. nick

    Steele is a liar like all Republicans. With the murder weapon in his hand he decries these foul, vie, dispecable, disruptive, inglorious, benighted, and revolting but wholly Republican tacts. Steele and his jack boot members are a foul stench in the nostrils of the nation.

    August 5, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  3. Ray Tran

    We need health care reform. If it failed, no one afford to get health insurance from the private carrier. I think this is another dirty polictic from the Republican

    August 5, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. republicans hate america

    yes pass the buck on like the GOP do so well.

    August 5, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  5. REG in AZ

    Why does Steele's comments always ring so hollow? Could it be because they always are just criticisms without any solutions, always self-justifying and aimed at returning to 'more of the same', what got us where we are?

    August 5, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  6. Patriot

    Let the Civil War's time to declare open season on Republicans! The only good Republican is a dead one!

    August 5, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Lou - Manchester, CT

    Typical Republican tactics:

    Hey RNC and Michael Steele – when you have something constructive to say, come back and see us American people. In the meantime:

    Don't go away mad – just go away.

    August 5, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. sara

    Steele, there's never legitimacy to denying others the freedom of speech. America is a Democracy.......mister. These "rallies/protest" are the same "rallying" cries of Hatred and Anger that the Entire World saw on the Campaign trail. These people are Not legitimate....... but "cranks" that are being Used by the Republicans, of which you are head in name, to keep things as they are...... their pockets being "greased" by the Healthcare Lobbyist. No more, no less!

    August 5, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. joe

    People are angry and Mr. Obama and the Dem's are not listening – it is like any other society – those that are not being heard yell louder. The Dem's need to listen to the whole country, not just their groupies.

    August 5, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  10. jayel

    I used to be a Repub but when I this kind of tactic used, thats it with me with the Repubs. If we can't win then nobody wins and I'm taking everything down with me. That's a pretty sleazy attitude not to mention self serving. I'm going independent next time. Go Ron Paul/Palin(2012)

    August 5, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    Steele is a liar and he knows it.

    August 5, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  12. Justin

    The thing is – nothing Steele says is important. He's a non-entity in his own party, a front for the Republicans' real leaders – Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

    August 5, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. tcaudilllg

    The next Republican president will be singing the public option's praises. It's the truth.

    August 5, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  14. Wanda J. Brown

    Michael Steele is the GOP's token minority. Nothing he says or does is of any REAL consequence because no one is taking him seriously. He's the black version of Ellie Mae Palin. Representative of the nutwing side of the GOP. He should sit beside clarence thomas in the race for respect. Neither of them have an ounce of respect from their own race let alone from the white race. Steele will eventually be replaced anyways.

    August 5, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  15. Allie

    You can bet your bottom dollar Steele had his hands all over this one....

    August 5, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  16. Cheryl

    This guy lies like a rug.

    August 5, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  17. Reed

    Evidently only liberals are allowed to protest. Lord knows we saw enough luny liberal protests for the last 8 years. Take a hike.

    August 5, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  18. 60's survivor

    the party of deceit and deceitful tactics. buyer beware the GOP has moral problems they are unable to address.

    August 5, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  19. kyle

    Dance Steele dance! You listen to Rush and Karl. What a fool!

    August 5, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. nick

    You kids need to grow up and stop acting like fools. Obama is President ok. You just have to live with it or leave the country. Many of you said that if he won that you would leave so why are you still here? Chuck Norris has been hit in the head TOO many times he is off his rocker.

    August 5, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. Melissa

    He always denies everything, even if he's directly responsible. Sick of the Republican whining.

    August 5, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  22. Deborah Black

    Yeah, just like they weren't inciting anyone during the election.

    August 5, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  23. The Party of NO stood calmly by for 8 year while the shrub raped and pillaged America, so, why would we listen to you now?

    Conservatives for Patient Rights has already accepted credit for indeed "ginning up" the neo-con base and getting them to the town hall meetings.

    For the Party of NO, you wanted time to understand the health care bill at least hold up a sign in protest, but save you mob rule mentality for the Klan meetings. Listen and ask a question, IF selected, but keep the juvenile shouting down so the people that actually are there to be informed will not have wasted their time.

    For the Dems, cancel all these town meetings, remember, the redneck knuckle draggers carry guns and believe "god is on their side".

    'Nuff said.

    August 5, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  24. CG

    Ah , the magic of smoke and mirrors, yada yada yada!!!

    The GOP is getting so good at deception, they make tricky dick look tame!

    August 5, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. John in WV

    I spoke with a person who just attended a town hall meeting on free choice and health care reform. Republican representatives were invited and guaranteed they could have the floor to explain their views but none of them attended. There were, however, a group of people who drove over 100 miles to attend and did everything they could to disrupt the meeting. They were confronted by the crowd and left before the meeting concluded.

    August 5, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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