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. Larry

    Steele will not be there next year as head o the RNC. He is not a good leader ,spends too much money and didn't even remeber what health
    insurance carrier he had.

    April 10, 2010 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  2. John

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

    Steele's biggest mistake was joining a political party most of whose members wish his type would go back to Africa.

    April 10, 2010 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. John

    Michael, don't let them boot you out. Be brave and stand up for your God given rights to be a fool.

    April 10, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. GOPBslapper

    His first mistake was thinking a Party of Racists would ever have his back. He is too Dim Witted to know the only reason Republicans took him out of the back of the bus, is so that they could throw him under the bus as soon as they could.

    April 10, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Katherine Riebe

    Interesting after 8 years of Bush/Cheney, many Republicans are jumping ship to other political parties. I find this very interesting political behavior.

    April 10, 2010 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  6. Dean in PA

    I hope they keep him. It can only benefit the Democratic Party. What a jerk-off.

    April 10, 2010 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  7. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Trust in republicans will take longer than four years.Have a nice retirement uncle Mike.

    April 10, 2010 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  8. Danny Cali

    Oh..........Sure.............a MISTAKES huh...........get real Mr. Steeler. we'll let you stay with the party of "NO" one more year because you have no Idea to be a leader let stay with a big "NO".

    April 10, 2010 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. Al

    I don't know of even one Democrat or Independent that want Michael Steele removed as the RNC Chairman. This generous gift will keep "giving" until November and beyond.

    Funny that after all the hype about Sarah Palin, a man who did even bother to show up (Mitt Romney) won the straw poll vote.

    I think serious people see her as a side show warm up act. not to be taken seriously.

    April 10, 2010 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Jacques

    The Republicans will go down in flames come November. Many moderate centrists have been absolutely appalled at the shocking nastiness of the Republican-led "Tea Party" movement: calling sitting congressmen racial slurs, mocking the terminally ill who are lobbying for insurance reform, threatening physical violence on their opponents, and on top of it a Republican party using donors' hard-earned contributions to send people to a pervert's "sex theme" party (there's family values for you all right, Republican style).

    April 10, 2010 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  11. burt

    Steele is the man for the repug party needs. For he is the one the founding fathers was afraid of

    April 10, 2010 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  12. nadeem

    Team Baggers are such hypocrytes, if they had any integrity they would ask for the head of every member of the RNC who put their name on that petition.

    April 10, 2010 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  13. Jenn, Philadelphia

    I wonder how many comments CNN will leave this open for? 5 to respond to the President's radio speech and 22 for the Republican response. Usually, they leave any article about Sarah Palin open for at least 300 comments or more. I figure they're going to want as many negative postings as they can get for this one, at least 200. Of course, there is nom liberal media bias, so I must be wrong.

    April 10, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. Gary, Hunt Valley, Md.

    Deep down, you know Steele realizes what a fear-mongering, power-hungry, country-second fraud he is being paid to run. Ahem, here's the core of the Republican message, distilled down to truth: Forget about the fact that our party had all the power for six years and ran up the national debt to astronomical, unprecedented levels. Forget about Iraq, Katrina, massive government expansion, budget surpluses that went POOF! practically overnight. Don't let the socialist run up the debt anymore. Don't let the government take over your life, Let the private sector do it to you again. Run from Obama as fast as you can, hit the reset button on history and and give us back the power we so richly deserve.

    April 10, 2010 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  15. jules sand-perkins

    I was not worried at all about Republicans' November prospects a few weeks ago.
    Now I am, and Mr. Steele is one of the leading reasons.
    People do not vote for a checklist of points and facts when they pull the curtain on a voting booth.
    They vote for an image. They vote for a vision.
    They voted this way when they elected President Obama.
    Michale Steele does not bring to mind an image that I want to see voted into existence.
    Think of the Coca-Cola script trademark: it makes you taste something.
    Is Michael Steel the trademark the Republicam party wants?

    April 10, 2010 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  16. Calling it like I see it.

    Steele, sometimes I feel sorry for you. I hope one day you will wake up and realize just how you are being used by the Republicn Party white men. They don't love and care for you. They are just using you just like they used black people during slavery. They are plotting one black man against another. Don't you know you will never be the man Obama is. You of all people should never forget where you came from. It haven't been long since the White men had you and your ancestry oppressed and segregated. They will never take Obama down because Obama has been blessed by God. God has Obama protected from evil doer.. Anyone that try to tear apart something God has put in place is making a hugh mistake. Steele, if you are an educated man, I advice you to use that education along with some commom sense and let the Republican Party sink into a deep hole just where they belong.

    April 10, 2010 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  17. Robrob

    "Steele told a polite but half-empty ballroom at the conference"

    How appropriate...

    April 10, 2010 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  18. Perusing-through


    Your first mistake was to believe you would be accepted as the chairman of the RNC. Duhhhhh . . .

    Why can't you understand the GOP doesn't want you as the head of their RNC (Redneck National Committee)?

    April 10, 2010 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  19. Perusing-through


    Oh LORD, for President Obama and the sake of the Democratic Party, please don't let this fool Steele figure out his 'biggest mistake'. At least not until next year, some time well after November 2010 midterm elections?

    April 10, 2010 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  20. Twainland

    Looks like he should've been a little more "conservative" with the RNC checkbook. His fundraising efforts were truly off the hook. This is what the GOP gets for tokenism.

    April 10, 2010 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  21. T.W. Harris

    You mean you have not resigned as of yet??!! – Hit the road. You are a hinderance to the party.

    April 10, 2010 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  22. Pkm

    Pkm spend as much money of the gops money as you want

    April 10, 2010 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  23. Charlie in Maine

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

    Which puts you leaps and bound ahead of that George W Bush character. I will never forget when he claimed he had never made a mistake.

    Every time Obama makes a mistake, which is no where near as often as Bush, he admits it and even apologizes I know you knuckle draggers see that as some sign of weakness but it is what adults do when they are wrong. Look it up.

    April 10, 2010 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  24. Pkm

    I bet the money that you spent on the gop was for bussinesand i i bet all the repukeicans had a great time

    April 10, 2010 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  25. Gil

    The one mistake we have to not repeat is to keep these Party of No people from keeping on with their do nothing government policy! No No NO gets a little sickening after a while! Hypocrites and liars!

    April 10, 2010 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
1 2 3 4