April 10th, 2010
08:24 PM ET
13 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. T'SAH from Virginia

    “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.”

    Wow, this is not the FEAR we're talking about????? This has NOTHING to do with the FEAR that President Obama is a RADICAL and part of a REGIME... President Obama is a MUSLIM and the Muslims are terrorist and our enemies.... President Obama is HITLER.... We're killing our elders with Death Panels.... We are not SECURED under President Obama.... threatening to mane and kill political congressmen/women.... cleaning and loading guns for a TAKE OVER.

    Please check again with the so-called 'founding fathers' and let me know if they would agree with this??? A question was also asked – "which side would President Lincoln would be on now???

    April 10, 2010 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  2. Livin' the good life

    WE ALL make mistakes, it is just that MOST of us do not make such BIG ones! Beau Colby

    April 10, 2010 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  3. The Unsub

    so long brotha

    April 10, 2010 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  4. Confederate vet

    Looky here, looks like this heah scapegoat has admitted the error o his ways.

    Bout time he larned hiss place...

    April 10, 2010 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  5. Denna

    Actually, the biggest mistake you've made is to think that the bigoted RNC would have given you the job if President Obama hadn't won the election. You are on your way to becoming obsolete in the GOP. Congratulations! They're not bigots you say? Then explain the whiteness of the Tea Party movement. I seriously doubt that even if they could find a black person who agrees with them, that this person would be welcomed into the party. And let us not forget the battle cry to 'take our country back'. From whom, may I ask?

    April 10, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  6. btannerski

    Gotta hand it to Steele – at least he can admit to making mistakes.

    After all, George W. never made any mistakes.

    Remember – couldn't think of q single mistake he made after being president for 8 years.

    Gee – I would have thought that lying to the American people regarding WMD, starting two wars that were unpaid for, pharmaceutical expansion via Medicare that is bankrupting the country, polarizing the citizenry, and taxbreaks during two wars which further exponentially expanded our deficit would have all qualified as mistakes.

    No, I will not forget. I will not vote for a Republican in a national election again!

    April 10, 2010 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |

    Glen Beck for 2012 GOP nod

    April 10, 2010 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  8. Ron San Bruno, Ca

    Ok so now we fess up to all that we tried to get over on the public, and from here on in it we will be as honest as ms palin is about being qualified to run for the Office of President of the United States ,

    April 10, 2010 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  9. Ed

    Last night I heard a h*** of a noise and jumped out of bed. I looked out of the window thinking that Sarah Palin was on my back fence – it was only a cat in heat... – strange how they both sound the same!

    April 10, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  10. Livin' the good life

    “The one mistake we cannot make this November is to lose,” That's because there are still quite a few more clubs we need to visit...Beau Colby

    April 10, 2010 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  11. Ken in NC

    Good show Mr. Steele. With people like you, Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and "Half Gov. Palin" at the helm, Democrats can sleep well and have restful dreams at night for they know they have all of you working to insure their re-election in November. Keep up the clubbing and dining out in Bait & Tackle Shops and Wine Shops.

    April 10, 2010 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  12. Barbara

    This is a very pathetic man... trying to undo to a "half empty" hall. Perhaps fitting.... since all that is coming out of this Convention is half-empty talking points.

    April 10, 2010 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  13. Tom from Vermilion, Ohio

    Michael Steele, when he has appeared in the news, has always struck me as one of the more reasonable public figures in the GOP. Then came this trivial strip club scandle which has come to this thus far. Lately, many of us have been pondering as to what is going on with the Republican Party these days. The answer to this lies in a very large part with the only other name mentioned in this article. The REAL story is there. I suggest CNN do some homework, starting with this other person's bio and then "connect the dots".

    April 10, 2010 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  14. Chris

    I find it ironic that Steele said "folks have been mad at us in the past, and we have learned from that past." Because after the Republicans' devastating losses of 2008 all due to the country rejecting their far-right, hardline partisan behavior, what did the GOP conclude? That they weren't being conservative enough. So they moved even further to the right and became a party of extremists. And they "answer" to all the country's problems is to promote absolute gridlock in Washington and use every resource to destroy the President. I used to be mad at the Republicans in the past. Now I'm appalled and disgusted by their borderline fascist behavior.

    April 10, 2010 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  15. Richie

    Mistake was ever donning blackface and attempting to run the Old White Men party.

    April 10, 2010 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  16. gypsydaveywithablowtorch

    We should all be afraid of moving backwards to a time where we were advocating torture, starting unjustified wars, letting our financial institutions and banks operate without any regulation, increasing the disparity like never before between the working class and the wealthy elite, avoiding making any significant steps towards alternative energy, etc, etc

    April 10, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  17. LouieD

    Regarding the "fear" doctrine mentioned in the last 3 paragraphs of this article: Steele, your side had a name for John Kerry in 2004 when he adjusted his stance on certain issues to a far lesser degree.



    April 10, 2010 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  18. Brian from washington

    If the GOP ditches Michael Steele then the only African-American they'll have left is Bobby Jindall.

    April 10, 2010 07:25 pm at 7:25 pm |
  19. Tom C

    A republican said he made a mistake. Put that in the history books, cause George W. never made a mistake.

    April 10, 2010 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  20. DB

    There is no room at this level for these kinds of "mistakes". When a leader fails here it affects to many and he should either step down or fall on his own sword. I the case of Steel, he should have done that long long ago, but then I can understand his determination to stay, no one in their right minds would hire him to do anything, he is incompetent.

    April 10, 2010 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  21. Party of No

    "Please forgive me masta". Micheal Steele is begging forgiveness. While President O is on the world stage getting accolades.

    April 10, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  22. P. D.

    LOL! 'Mistakes'? That's putting it mildly......

    April 10, 2010 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  23. Michelle

    I wonder why the room was half empty (LOL)?

    April 10, 2010 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  24. matt

    are you guys even going to talk about the plane crash in Poland today???

    April 10, 2010 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  25. Dale

    Three words: Token Black Guy.

    April 10, 2010 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
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