January 28th, 2010
11:50 PM ET
12 years ago

Steele spars with reporters in Hawaii

Honolulu, Hawaii (CNN) – Michael Steele defended his turbulent tenure as head of the Republican National Committee Thursday, and vented his frustration with reporters in the room who, he claimed, "find me fascinating to write about and to opine on."

Steele specifically challenged a CNN question during a news conference at the RNC's Winter Meeting about whether he thinks members want him to serve a second term as head of the national party.

"Yeah, did you get intel otherwise?" he responded sharply. When it was pointed out that committee members have questioned his leadership, both privately and in the media, Steele bristled.

"They said critical things privately to you?" he said. "I'm sure they have. I look forward to that conversation publicly. My style is not something you get used to very easily, I know that. But at the end of the day, the members of this party charged me to do two things, raise money and win elections. On those two fronts, I think we're doing okay."

Steele later said he was open to running for a second term as chairman in January. "I have no reason not to," he shrugged. "It's in the hands of the members."

Another reporter questioned Steele's claim, made during the news conference, that the RNC began 2010 with more money in the bank than their counterparts at the Democratic National Committee. The RNC entered January with $8.4 million on hand. The DNC ended November with $13.1 million in the bank, but has not yet reported its end of the year fundraising totals.

"Really?" Steele asked the reporter. "They are starting with a lot more money than me? Really? You know that for a fact?" The GOP head went on to boast that his party bested the DNC in fundraising in "six of out six months last year," a claim questioned by the same reporter.

The RNC outraised the DNC in five of the 11 months that Steele was chairman in 2009, while the Democrats took in more cash than Republicans in five months. The DNC has not yet reported what it raised in December, while the RNC banked $6.6 million last month.

"Check your facts," Steele snapped at the reporter. "I'm sure you will. But get it right. Because you've been getting it wrong."

"I don't know if you noticed what happened this past year," he said, pointing out that his committee raised $81 million in 2009. "I won two … we won two governorships. We won 26 out of 37 special elections."

The RNC chairman also defended his decision to hold the committee's meeting at a lush resort in Honolulu, a move questioned by other GOP leaders uncomfortable with images of Republicans sunning on the beach as the rest of the country struggles with the sagging economy.

Steele sighed and said he was "frustrated" with the criticism. Singling out strong Republican candidates for governor and Congress in the state, Steele claimed that Hawaii, the birthplace of President Obama, "is a competitive state" for the Republican Party.

"We have not had the opportunity in the past to showcase the success of Republicans here in Hawaii, not to mention elsewhere among the territories in Guam, in Northern Marianas and the like," he said. "So that was another way for us I thought to put a spotlight on the western part of the country and certainly in the Pacific Rim."

Filed under: Michael Steele • RNC
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jacq


    January 29, 2010 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  2. broderick

    Hey steele I think u are so blind they are using u for ur race just get out!!! Do u not see that wow black american will never feel the gop never get out!! Get out!!!!

    January 29, 2010 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |