CPAC's Schlapp, ex-RNC Chairman Steele have tense exchange over racial comment

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Mike Steele on Saturday challenged CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp over a group spokesman’s suggestion that Steele was appointed to lead the RNC only because he is black, and Schlapp’s response.

The exchange occurred on a Sirius XM radio show amid the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in Washington, D.C., and one day after CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters said: “We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy. That was the wrong thing to do.”

Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC, apologized for the situation and said he loved Steele and considered him a friend. However, Steele took issue with Schlapp saying that he wasn’t going to “separate himself from Ian.”

RNC Chairman Michael Steele speaks at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans April 10. (Reuters Photo)

Several minutes later, Schlapp, who, like Steele, is a Sirius satellite radio host, said, “Those words that tumbled out of his mouth, I believed were unfortunate words.”

Steele, a former Maryland lieutenant governor, called the words “stupid,” not “unfortunate.”

“Call it what it is,” Steele, RNC chairman from 2009 to 2011, continued in the roughly nine-minute exchange. “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?”

Walters apologized to Steele for the remarks.

Schlapp suggested throughout the exchange that some of the criticism directed at Steele is because of how he ran the RNC, and over his more recent criticism of the Republican Party.

Schlapp said he understood how such remarks, made at a Friday night dinner, are being perceived by African-Americans and the rest of America.

“I've spent 41 years in this party,” Steele later 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."