October 5th, 2009
06:05 PM ET
10 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. Ninos

    Just like any other Rethuglican, say one thing in private, but say something else when in front of the rabid crowd of the conservative base!!

    October 5, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  2. Steph

    Steele has long been known for his concern for the poor. Wait, no, no he hasn't.

    Rush is gonna be so mad at him!

    October 5, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. mike

    republicans love to talk a good game to get what ever votes they can

    October 5, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. I have an uncle named Tom also

    I wonder if he recieved any applause at the "Historically Black" college? He is such an uncle tom, I am surprised he even showed up to speak.

    October 5, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  5. Jackie in Dallas

    Gee, Steele. Could it be you opened your mouth and inserted your foot?

    What people don't seem to get is that the origins of ACORN were noble, just like a lot of organizations. You are going to have some bad apples - maybe a lot of them - the larger you get. The aims of the organization are still noble, they've just been tarnished by the less than stellar performance of some of their folks.

    Both President Bush and Senator McCain were supporters of ACORN, and toured and spoke at their headquarters while they were courting minority voters. Those rabid right better cool down before someone takes a closer look at some of THEIR organizations!

    October 5, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. GM

    Sad,sad comment coming from this ?...

    October 5, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  7. Frozone

    A Republican hypocrite? I can't believe it. Next they'll be rooting for America to fail. Oh, wait. They already are.

    October 5, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. Lisa P

    I guess Rush must have called Michael out to the woodshed. "But I do respect that it has a history of working the community and helping the poor." How can Mr. Steele be the Chairman of the Republican Party and not know that the GOP has nothing but scorn for community, the poor, and anyone who would try to help either? Except when courting fundamentalist Christians, of course, but those folks don't have the sense to check on whether words ever become actions; just say the right thing and smile a lot and you're good to go as far as they're concerned.

    October 5, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  9. bam

    Steele, like most Republicans, changes his stripes according to his surroundings.

    October 5, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. ICARE

    Stop talking about dumb squirrel nuts called ACORN. The stuff that the last administration was worst!!!!!!

    October 5, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. larrywi

    Phenominal job! Hillarious!! ACORN another poor example of the undeserving getting ahead at the expense of the poor...

    October 5, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  12. Proud Vet

    How two faced can you get. Say one thing in front of one crowd and the exact opposite in front of another. Typical politics.

    October 5, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  13. DMiley

    I really wish we could replace him with someone who's conservative convictions are real and not politically expedient. Pandering FTL.

    October 5, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  14. Wynter

    Steele is almost as useless as Glenn Beck if you are looking for the facts. Why anyone would listen to him is beyond me. His entire position as the head of the GOP is to generate controversy and act as head rumormonger for the Right Wing. Fairness and the facts are the first things that he tosses under the bus.

    All he is interested in is making the GOP "appear" good and anyone else looking guilty or evil. That style of politics is no longer viable in today's world.

    October 5, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  15. Pam

    A hypocritical republican. Is anyone surprised?

    October 5, 2009 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  16. doug

    You better watchout Micheal Steele, your masta is listening time for the woodshed.

    October 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  17. Kate in SW Fla

    I can say this with assurance, ACORN has broken fewer laws than Congress has. Bunch of hypocrits and thieves, all of them.

    October 5, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  18. Peter

    What a hypocrite! this guy is a double faced sword! but he has to do just that least he makes his boss Rush Limbaugh angry.

    October 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  19. Bush's "Suck"cess: My Pet Goat, Mission Accomplished & Heckuva Job Brownie

    Hypocrisy from the GnOP? I'm shocked, simply shocked!

    October 5, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  20. Barbara Independent in NY

    Michael can you spell the words token and used? That's what you are to the Republican party.

    October 5, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  21. Kevin in Ohio

    Major difference between liberals and conservatives.... Liberals HATE, no matter what. Conservatives see fault, but recognize honest effort to correct problems when it happens. Your choice...HATE? Or honest open dialogue?

    October 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  22. vic nashville , Tn

    I won’t believe a word from him till he quit his party

    October 5, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  23. felicia

    Only thing i'm seeing right now is that these crackers are tryna discredit AA's and we need jessie and al to step up, and the Naacp.

    October 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  24. Tom L

    I'm trying to understand from all of these democrats on here why it matters that Mr. Steele is black.

    Why do you keep bringing it up?

    October 5, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  25. Joe Terrogano

    What a nerd.

    October 5, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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