April 10th, 2010
08:24 PM ET
12 years ago

'I've made mistakes,' Steele admits at big GOP conference

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/05/art.steele.flag.gi.jpg caption ="Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spoke Saturday at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans."]New Orleans (CNN) - In the wake of a messy spending scandal that did serious damage to his standing atop the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele offered a mea culpa at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Saturday.

“I’m the first here to admit I’ve made mistakes and its incumbent on me to take responsibility, shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on,” Steele told a polite but half-empty ballroom at the conference, where he was the final speaker on the agenda.

“The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose,” he said.

Steele has battled two weeks of bad headlines after it was revealed that RNC spent donor money at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub - a controversy that exacerbated grumbling among Republicans already skeptical of Steele’s ability to raise the money needed to compete in November.

“In life you realize very quickly that you can’t please everyone, but you can certainly make them all mad at you at the same time,” Steele told the audience. “That is a lesson well learned. It is an opportunity as well. Because folks have been mad at us in the past, and we have learned from that past, and we are now ready to move on into a brighter future as leaders, as Republicans, as conservatives.”

Steele arrived in New Orleans on Thursday but has been nearly invisible to most of the conference delegates, opting instead to meet behind closed doors with party insiders and members of the RNC.

Some of Steele’s allies on the committee have used the three-day event to organize a letter of support for the embattled chairman after some called for his resignation. Other RNC members in attendance groused privately about Steele’s seeming inability to avoid controversy.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum met with the chairman on Saturday morning to have what a Santorum aide called “a very frank discussion” about Steele’s stewardship of the committee. Steele requested the sit-down last week, after Santorum publicly chided the party leader over the nightclub story.

Despite questions about his standing among party insiders, Steele gradually warmed up the crowd with some of his trademark partisan rhetoric and won a handful of standing ovations.

He also reprised a controversial message that Democrats criticized in March, when an internal RNC fundraising presentation showed that the party planned to raise money by capitalizing on “fear” of President Obama.

Steele criticized the document when it became public - but on Saturday he appeared to embrace the fear message.

“Republicans get accused by the other side of having a message based on fear, well they are right,” he said. “But the founding fathers were fearful first, they were afraid of unchecked power in government, and so are we.”

Filed under: 2010 • Michael Steele • Popular Posts • RNC
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Mark Sanford, Gov of SC (when I feel like showing up)

    His biggest mistake is either not realizing or refusing to acknowledge he is nothing more than a token to be held up so the party can claim not to be racists. He actually tries to do the job and whenever that happens the party steps in to undermine whatever he does or says.

    April 10, 2010 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. Sharon

    The consummate IDIOT.

    April 11, 2010 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  3. carlos

    we liberals all over this wonderful land are anxiously waiting for NOVEMBER........it will be great to see the repulsives become hyenous by loooooooosing AGAIN....hehehehehe

    April 11, 2010 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  4. Last to Say

    "Half empty ballroom?"...

    April 11, 2010 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  5. Rick M

    Resign! You dumb toilet paper! Pass the torch to someone who does not need to apologize. You and Obama are tight. Great job!

    April 11, 2010 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  6. roger

    CNN would give anything to get Steele out of office. So much easier to call them racists without having a black rep to get in the way.

    April 11, 2010 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  7. wco

    it is sad to see the type of hatred, dis respect and ignorance. I have only seen this type of hatred, ignorance, dis respect and anger in days of slavery. In today's corporate world we call it unprofessional or bad judgement at any rate, it is a true show of character and root of our nation's real issues... I am talking about the R- word approach to President Obama. Our nation has not overcome the illness of racism, it is so evident in the true red neck approach of those that oppose Obama. Not Obama's direction or policies, because they are similiar to the republican's, but the hatred toward the man. Listen to the anger in the language and the "lynch' approach. It's 2010 and we are suffering from a illness that is from lord knows when. How is it ok for a stateman to scream "liar" during a state of the union address? Wow I am so glad he is not representing my state, what a fool, I could see him at a kids sporting event, lol!

    April 11, 2010 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  8. JC

    What kind of conservatives are they who spend money at sex-based Hollywood nightclub (Steele) and whose daughter gets pregnant before marriage at the age of 18 (Palin). From those manners, it is clear that they are conservatives just for namesake just like how the whole party is good for nothing other than name calling.

    April 11, 2010 12:55 am at 12:55 am |
  9. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Baloney, Steele is the GOP's work horse, and he deserves to be treated as such and that's exactly what he promised them. Steele has no integrity and has sold his soul to the devil within him.

    April 11, 2010 01:12 am at 1:12 am |
  10. Walfre

    Typical of a republican whenever they make mistakes. " sorry I am human I make mistakes" please vote for me I need your votes.

    April 11, 2010 03:45 am at 3:45 am |
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