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. Unemployed

    Oh my God!!! Steele having two faces? Inconceivable! Oh well, I guess he needed some qualifications to be the head of the Republican party. I only now realized the qualification most needed to obtain the post.

    October 5, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  2. h h g

    someone else someone got to ... what part of ACORN is corrupt do you not understand ... i guess any part...

    October 5, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. Mojo

    The Republicans, in their infinite wisdom and zeal, got together to get ACORN and one up the Senate they decided to cancel all ACORN funding. They wanted to write that any company that had been convicted of fraud..could not get fed money....but since ACORN has never been convicted of fraud they had to open it to any company that had ever been "charged" in order for ACORN to be "defunded".

    In other words, we've gone back to Witchunt times, before the impartial jury system now, and have taken a step back to "Guilty before innocent" or "prove your innocence."

    The republicans, in the meantime, inadvertently just took out every defense contractor from Black Water to Halliburton. Haha.

    The fall back is the bill will have to read "Convicted."

    October 5, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. P. D.

    LOL! You can't make this up! What a hypocrit!

    October 5, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Mike

    Michael "I don't do policy" Steele is a joke and has zero credibility. Republicans need a new chairman and a platform to become a real party again.

    October 5, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  6. Mojo

    The solution is, defund just acorn in this instance... you don't need to make all sorts of bogus rules "anyone charged with fraud is defunded." Why can't they just directly defund this organization.

    October 5, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  7. Mike in FL

    Steele is the most EMBARRASING example of what it is to be a black man in America. He is supposed to be the leader of the Republican Party, so long as he doesn't speak his mind and continues to echo the banterings of the crazies. He doesn't stand up for anything. My thought is that he spoke his mind to the black collegiate crowd and was rebuked within the party as such an act was impermissible b/c it was sympathetic to ACORN and lended credibility to the majority of the organization's efforts in poor communities. He then comes back with the normal right-wing crazy rhetoric against ACORN. Just like when Rush basically told him to sit his butt down, and like a good boy, HE DID! What a J-O-K-E!!!!

    October 5, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  8. Pragmatic

    If he wasn't a republican ... the GOP would be screaming "flip-flop!"

    October 5, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  9. Edward lawler

    Acorn stepped in it's own pile of do-do. Now it has bring itself back to credibility. May not be possible.

    October 5, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  10. Padraig

    ACORN is finally being found out what they truly represent.

    October 5, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  11. Kevin

    Two (or more) faces. Typical.

    October 5, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  12. normajean

    I agree....HYPOCRISY


    October 5, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  13. Eli

    So he waited until he was speaking at an African-American college to say this, after saying the opposite to help get his party base riled up. This reminds me of when John McCain got caught in last year's campaign saying one thing about immigration in English but broadcasting the opposite message in Spanish-language radio ads.

    ACORN has a long history of working in communities and helping people find housing, employment, affordable treatment and other kinds of help they would not be able to find otherwise. Voter registration is only a very small part of the whole picture.

    October 5, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  14. CoolGayDad

    Michael Steele is just the same as any other Republican: "A person of little or no consequence."

    October 5, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Dieter Zerressen

    Change your speech to target your audience but by all means get the inflamatory stuff out there first. You can always apologize later when no one is listening.

    October 5, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  16. Ken

    What a pandering hypocrite. Now it will be fun to see him backpedal when Rush blasts him for saying something positive about an organization that does a lot of good work.

    October 5, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  17. Mike

    Rush & Glenn will have his head for saying that...

    October 5, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  18. STLDan

    I have never met a Republican that didnt speak out of both sides of thier mouth!

    October 5, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. cara

    Michael Steele is the PERFECT representative for his Party. He talks out of both sides of his mouth so effortlessly.

    October 5, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  20. stormerF

    Why is this news? Obama said he did not know anything about ACORN,when he was their Lawyer for years. He was also an associate of Bill Ayers. And Obama could not be an FBI Agent due to his past affiliations.

    October 5, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  21. Phil - Laurel, MD

    Why do we treat hypocrisy like it's the worst thing possible? Clearly the best thing for ACORN is that it should step up, fix its mistakes, and keep trying to do good for communities. Just b/c someone like Steele is a hypocrite in his statements, can't we just pay attention to the good ones?

    I'm tired of politics and the people outside politics that make it worse. Stop acting like every word they say is the end all, be all, and start accepting that it takes a while to get where we are going. And NEWS FLASH: sometimes you have to tell multiple groups of people different things in order to get enough of them to like you enough to vote for you.

    Don't be so naive and ignorant.

    October 5, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  22. Mary

    Give me a break – Bertha is part of the corruption!!! Get rid of ACORN!!!!!

    October 5, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. proud dem in nc

    Steele is the GOP token black man. He talks out of both sides of his mouth. Typical, pathetic GOP. Nobody cares what he says anyway. He is irrelevant.

    October 5, 2009 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  24. Marc Thompson

    Did anyone from CNN even read this article? Michael Steele didn't applaud ACORN. Only a leftist demo-fool could read that article and come up with that ridiculous headline. If you want to drag Michael Steele's name through the mud you better come big or don't come at all. This is HILARIOUS!

    October 5, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |

    It's too late for Michael Steele to try to act like he has any sort of principles, morals or compassion for anyone. He is the worse kind of African-American man. He is disgusting and total useless. Now that his Republican "buddies" have no use for him...he's trying to show fake compassion for community workers in hope to cover his bets in the African-American community. W R O N G !!!! Steele no one needs or wants your opinion or apologies on anything. Just "stay on the porch".

    October 5, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
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