Blog Briefing Room

Michael Steele spars with CPAC head over official's race comment: 'What the hell'

Former Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele confronted the chairman of the American Conservative Union on Saturday over comments made by a spokesman for the group at a major conservative conference a day earlier.

The row between the former RNC head and Matt Schlapp on Steele's SiriusXM radio show "Steele & Ungar" came a day after Ian Walters, the communications director for the Conservative Political Action Conference, said that Steele was picked as RNC chairman because "he was a black guy."

"Those words that tumbled out of his mouth, I believed were unfortunate words," Schlapp told Steele, who served as RNC chairman from 2009 until 2011. 

"They were stupid. It's not 'unfortunate,' " Steele shot back. "Call it what it is. It is stupid to sit there and say that we elected a black man chairman of the party and that was a mistake. Do you know how that sounds to the black community?"

Steele said that Walters's remarks underscored the Republican Party's tense relationship with race, and that such comments lead Americans to "equate that level of stupidity to conservatism."

"I've spent 41 years in this party. Forty-one, all right?" Steele said. "I have taken crap you have no idea about, and I have carried this baggage. And for him to stand on that stage and denigrate my service to this party, and for you as a friend to sit there and go, 'Well, you have been critical of this party.' "

"There is only one word I can say, and I can't say it on this air," he continued. When Schlapp told him to "say it," Steele said that he could not, because the Federal Communications Commission "won't allow it."

Schlapp said that, while Walters's comment was in poor taste, Steele had been critical of the Republican Party under President Trump and has not gotten "universal praise" from conservatives for his stewardship of the RNC. 

That prompted a heated response from Steele. 

"What the hell does my race have to do with any of that, at the end of the day? What does the color of my skin have to do with anything you just said?" Steele said.