October 5th, 2009
06:05 PM ET
11 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. so tired of this

    Hypocrisy is never a concern for the GOP

    October 5, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  2. scott winter haven

    To bad she would be the only one left. Now that is grassroots.

    October 5, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  3. Derek

    Ah, Republicans trying to pander to the black vote. It's not going to happen guys. Just give up.

    October 5, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  4. Farrell in Houston

    Michael Steele isn't respected in the black community and it has nothing to do with Acorn. Michael Steele is damaged goods to minorities.

    October 5, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  5. jason c

    As a proud progressive, my two biggest disappointments are ACORN and the current president of this country. Both, so full of promise, yet devoid of execution. Time for a third party. And a rooting out of all PAC.

    October 5, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    just blame bush

    that is all we liberial babies can do

    until things get worse, then i dont know what to do

    October 5, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  7. L for Legend

    Steele should go to one of the tea parties, hello?????

    October 5, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. Jay T.

    No! A Republican as a proven hypocrite! This has to be a conspiracy by the Liberal Media, or ACORN, or the Socialists, or Terrorists, or Lions, Tigers and Bears, OH MY!

    October 5, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  9. Cindy

    2 faced politician..

    October 5, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  10. RAG

    "Nefarious activities"! "Uses illegal means to acheive its ends"! Sounds like the Republican Party and the Bush Administration to me...

    October 5, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  11. OaklandTracy

    All this proves is what we already know: Most Republicans are hypocrites who are more interested in making noise, opposing President Obama, and scoring cheap points than doing anything good for America.

    Nothing new here.

    October 5, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  12. Andrew

    This is pretty disgusting. First he says the damage control efforts were insulting and a lot of other bad things about ACORN, but then changes his tune at a predominantly black college speaking event. Then he changes back to evil republican after that. Sounds like he is counting on those college students to not find out about this so as not to loose any more republican votes. The level of puppetry at work here is astounding and I hope the American people figure this out.

    October 5, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  13. Kitchen Police

    I think he was referring to a squirrel.

    October 5, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  14. Michael-SC

    what do you expect.
    show me a politician and I show you a liar and a hypocrite.
    Wanna see a honest politician? Don't look towards Washington.

    October 5, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. S M R

    Is this the calm before the storm?

    October 5, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Ruty

    As usual,Steele talks out of both sides of his mouth.His right hand dosen't know what his left hand is doing. A perfect idiot.

    October 5, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  17. Jay T.

    I bet Fox won't cover this ACORN story. Though, he is black, so they just may.

    October 5, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  18. Gary

    This article assumes an inconsistency of Steele's comments that may not be there. The current ACORN CEO is not a bad person but she is in denile about the corruption and poor training throughout her organization. ACORN needs to have an independent accounting firm do a full audit of their books. They need to introduce a full training and cultural development program. They should not be supporting Democratic politicians or canvassing Democratic districts if they are accepting tax payer money of any kind. They should focus only on helping poor people with housing and other social care issues. Until they clean up their act they should not get federal, state or local tax money and companies should seriously consider withholding funding as well. The organization smells like a corrupt pro-Democrat political organization that is using taxpayer money to advance an extreme social an political adgenda. I don't think that was it's original purpose, was it?

    October 5, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  19. Nick

    Just another example of Steele talking out of both sides of his mouth.

    October 5, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  20. Traj

    He is such an uncle Tom who has been put out front to counter Obama because he is black. Michael, you are making yourself look do stupid. As soon as the status quo of "Old wrinkled up white men" are done with you, you are history. And honestly, I can't wait. Do like Colin Powell, just take your place in the stupid republican party and be quiet.

    October 5, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  21. Chris - MN

    Isn't there a law under debate to pull all funding from any organization (that receives funding) that files any form of fraudulent government document? I'm curious about this one. Seems silly to enact rules for one high-profile case, while allowing the others to slip. I wonder how many defense contractors will be out in the cold – and how much this will impact war efforts.

    October 5, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  22. S Callahan NYS

    lol....Do I smell reporters getting to some truth? lol
    Imeshed through all parties, ehy?

    October 5, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  23. talmag

    While I am not stupid enough to think Acorn does not have it's problems, the fact remains that they have done a tremendous job in helping the people of Louisiana after the flooding. They have been there for other things but like most organizations that got too big, some members did not have the service in mind when they broke the rules. They were the ones who were in it for their own purposes and I hope they will be weeded out. This country needs organizations like Acorn which were formed to help the needy and take care of the indigent. Unfortunately, the bad stuff gets all the press and the good deeds go un-noticed. Much needs to be done to get this organization back to business but we need not condemn them as a whole.

    October 5, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |

    pandering to the audience

    October 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  25. Chuck, Tennessee

    What an incredibly misleading headline!

    October 5, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
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