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. Laurie

    I think Chairman Steele has alot to be afraid of, not the least of which is how much of donor's money has been utilized to satiate the fetishes of the Party of Family Values. Fear is the opposite of hope Chairman Steele. I would rather be hopeful than fearful. Go tend to your business in a moral, truthful manner or step down.

    April 10, 2010 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  2. Lisa

    what a idiot!!!! now he is embracing the document of fear against our President, we should be fearful of a double-minded person, running the RNC, he belongs in the same basket as Sarah Palin!!

    April 10, 2010 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |

    Michael and the rest of GOP may fool SOME of the people ALL of the time but never AGAIN the MAJORITY OF THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.



    April 10, 2010 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  4. Joel

    The founding fathers were not fearful of unchecked government. They were upset at having British soldiers living in their homes; upset at having to pay for the Seven Year War; and upset by the Proclomation of 1763. Seems to me the Republicans passed the Patriot Act – how's that for unchecked power?

    April 10, 2010 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  5. John J, IN

    You are a complete clown, and the RNC will get no more money from while you are still involved. I thought it couldn't get any worse for us than Bush 43, and then you come along and prove me wrong.

    April 10, 2010 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  6. monasterymonkey

    Really, we all thought you were perfect!

    April 10, 2010 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  7. Eugene Frank MD

    Discretion is the better part of valor.

    In Japanese politics this man would have resigned weeks ago, or even suicided to save face. He lacks the courage to do either, his focus is on himself: not the party, not the scandal, not the backlash as a result of his misguided leadership.

    He is playing the race card: the stakes are too high, fold your hand and withdraw.

    April 10, 2010 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  8. Perusing-through

    Dear Mr. Steele,

    I know it is tough. But no matter what they say, please do not resign. You must hang in there, at least until the next RNC chairmanship vote.

    – – Signed,
    – – Registered Independent hoping to vote out more Bush-Cheney Republicans.

    April 10, 2010 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  9. Mickey, NY

    Sorry, but the GOP is already the loser in this...nothing but nonpartisan bias towards this president...you reap what you sow.

    April 10, 2010 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  10. Steve in VA

    Somebody better start investigating this plane crash in Russia.... The world is on fire right now.... who's in charge?

    April 10, 2010 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  11. Dennis

    Apology accepted Mr. Steele, but the Biased Main Stream Media will crucify you anyway, it's what they do for a living.

    April 10, 2010 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  12. Steve Henderson

    I don't see him admitting the mistake of questioning Rush Limbaugh, the Republican party's resident intelectual (college drop out). Or selling out his race for political gain.

    April 10, 2010 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  13. BeverlyNC

    Obviously, Steele has lost credibility with the Republican party and the confidence of Republican donors. By being the last speaker at the conference to a mostly empty ballroom speaks volumes. The leader of the RNC should have been a main speaker who was one to open the conference.

    Having been in the business world, the least important and interesting speakers are placed are the end of a conference. No one is usually there because they are not interested in the person and more interested in getting back home.

    Steele may be a "leader" but in name only so the RNC can try to save face and not admit what a giant mess they and the whole Republican Party are in. Republicans have little support by the majority of Americans for their endless negative and nasty behavior this year. They have done NOTHING to help our country recover from an economic disaster of their making. They have worked against the People by voting NO on everything to help the average working American keep their head above water/

    Republicans do not deserve the support of anyone. They have betrayed America and have incited an environment of hate and violence and danger throughout our country. They caused the creation of lunatic groups like tea baggers who threaten the lives of Democratic leaders, carry weapons to rallies, and repeat words and statements fed to them and do not even understand.

    Republicans are shameful and do not deserve the honor of being in Congress. It's time to send these anti-American haters that they do NOT represent us and remove ALL of them from elected office.

    April 10, 2010 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  14. Proud Liberal

    I am hoping and praying that the Republican Party will be devastated in the 2010 election. I am hoping and praying that the Republican Party will no longer exist in my lifetime. Surely, the American people, the planet, and posterity deserve better than this wicked, money-worshipping, profoundly selfish political cult.

    April 10, 2010 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  15. Phil

    Why is it that CNN is not doing a good coverage of the troubles in Bangkok, Thailand? We have friends left there and instead of relying on your news updates for us to know what's going on, all we see are news bars and little updates. This is a very troublesome event in Thailand and I'm disappointed that you are not doing a good coverage on this.

    Where are your newscasters and correspondents? Are they hiding somewhere? Are they being influenced by the news blackout (which means to say that CNN is not after the truth but only for its own convenience)?

    Tell you what – your news correspondents only get visible when times are good in Bangkok. They are just probably in Bangkok for fun and not for the real work. Pretty disappointing...

    April 10, 2010 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  16. Johan

    Admitting to a mistake? That's not very Republican of you, Mr. Steele.

    April 10, 2010 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |

    This guy like OBAMA'S supporters makes me want to puke. What idiots. They don't even realize that Obama has done them in.

    April 10, 2010 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  18. fhwilson199

    meanwhile the media fixates on Steele while Tim Kaine continues his racist remarks and KKK campaign for the other side.

    April 10, 2010 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  19. Tea Party Advocate

    Apology accepted. Now how about one for this party raping the country?

    April 10, 2010 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  20. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    You are hated and used by the GOP due to your blackness. Understand that!

    The progressives will welcome you.

    April 10, 2010 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  21. TM

    A Republican that admits to making a mistake?! Is that allowed in the GOP? Because we all know that Republican's NEVER make mistakes.

    April 10, 2010 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  22. ProfBill

    I never expected the elephants' grave yard would be THIS noisy.......

    April 10, 2010 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  23. Mr. Semaj

    What a loser.

    April 10, 2010 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  24. Ronnie

    The first mistake you made was to join the Republican party you oreo,do you really think that a mostley White party wants a Black leader, please get a check up from the neck up ok.

    The only reason why you are chairman is because they are using you as a platform against President Obama, just like the rest of those tap dancing other repub oreos who hold there butts to high and forget the many Black American patriots who gave there lives so your stupid overated behinds could at least drink from the same water fountain as a White person or go to the same functions as White people do.

    You and the very small portion of so called Black Republicans do you White slave masters proud, and when you need the force of the Black American nation behind your sell out behinds, WE WILL NOOT BE THERE!!!

    April 10, 2010 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  25. Mikael

    Steele is very good for GOP!!!!

    April 10, 2010 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
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