Michael Steele Gives First Interview as RNC Chairman

Published February 02, 2009

| FoxNews.com

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," January 30, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: This is a FOX News alert. Earlier today the Republican National Committee elected its new leader Michael Steele. He joins me now from Washington, DC. In his first interview since becoming the head of the Republican Party. Boy, what a step up, Michael from actually filling in for me occasionally. Congratulations.

MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thank you so much, Sean. Thank you very, very much. It is an incredible honor right now to stand with my friends around the country as we help to grow this party and make it a viable political entity out here. We have got a lot of work to do but today is a good day.

HANNITY: Well, it's a good day because we have been friends a long time.

STEELE: Yep.

Video: Watch Sean's interview with Michael Steele

HANNITY: Let me ask you this. I can tell you that conservatives that I know this week in particular, Michael, feel very energized.

STEELE: Yeah.

HANNITY: Because the Republicans in the House stood up to this massive transfer of the economy to the federal government. Is this a first step towards reenergizing the party?

STEELE: I think it is, Sean. I just spoke a little bit ago with Congressman Eric Cantor, the whip of for the Republican Caucus. And I had to congratulate him. This is the best whip job I have seen in a very, very long time by the Republican Caucus. He led, working with Congressman Boehner to keep the House together on this continual, you know, flow of funds away from the people out of their pockets into government.

And I thought it was a very bold move. I think the base especially is particularly excited to see Republicans standing firm on the core economic principle that we trust the people who know best to do what their dollars than the government. So, it was a good week. And today is a great day. And I'm excited to be a part of it.

HANNITY: Well I think this is a great moment for what Reagan said back in 1975 after the Republicans lost in 1974. No pale pastels, bold colors. Bold differences. I have interviewed you a lot over the years. You want those differences. You want to make those distinctions, correct?

STEELE: Absolutely. Sean, we are the conservative party of this country. And under the leadership of our new president and Rahm Emanuel, the Democrats have declared themselves to be the liberal party. And this is great, this is great. So now we have got this wonderful opportunity to clearly define the distinctions between the left and the right, conservatives and liberals and have the American people choose who we believe is still a center-right nation have them choose to go in a direction of peace and prosperity, opportunity and empowerment.

That's what Republicans want to talk about, the poor and those who are struggling to make it, we want to help them do that. I want to give a particular shout out to you, Sean for standing with me and supporting me and helping with the work here at FOX and the opportunity to work with you has been tremendous and it means a lot. It really does.

HANNITY: In full disclosure to our audience here, from early on when you were running, both on my radio show and here, I had said I was supporting you for a lot of different reasons, Michael. And not the least of which is you are a conservative. Both of us have talked both privately and publicly how the Republican Party has lost some of their conservative principles resulting in, I think, two pretty big election losses. And I think that message needs to be brought back.

STEELE: Well, it will be. And we tried to send out today right after the election a clarion call to the base to get ready, get revved up, and get ready to go forward and move that agenda, that conservative agenda. You know, conservatism is not a bad thing. It's not a pejorative. We have I think some very fundamental principles and values that matter. We just need to talk about them in the context of people's lives. And we are going to start doing that right now.

HANNITY: Michael, I was watching the vote take place today. And I was making calls to people that I knew where there when this vote was taking place. You won on the sixth ballot today.

STEELE: Yep.

HANNITY: And then, when you finally won, I was watching right here at FOX and the chyron, in other words, those words at the bottom of the screen said first African-American chair of the Republican National Committee. It has been a source of frustration to me that if you look at the demographics for those that break down demographics every election. African Americans, 90 percent, most elections, tend to vote for the Democratic Party.

STEELE: Um-huh.

HANNITY: In the context of your election, can that, will that change?

STEELE: I don't know, Sean. You know, it doesn't change with one person, you know. Just because a black man is running the RNC doesn't mean black folks are going to oh, OK, I will be a Republican. Just as with the election of President Obama. All the problems and concerns that are very important to African Americans don't get solved overnight. There is still black businesses that are being red-lined in neighborhoods that are struggling.

So what I think it does do is send the appropriate message that right now at this hour the Republican Party gets it. We are prepared to come into town squares and into town halls and meet with the community, talk about those issues, talk about the differences between us and work to earn their vote. We're not going to seed that opportunity any longer. This mind set they won't vote for us anyway is over. We are going to engage in Iowa to Florida to Nebraska to California, the Northeast. We want to be competitive everywhere. And I think this is a great opportunity to do it. And the conservative message resonates. When we walk away from that message. When we try to do conservative light, that's when we run into trouble.

So this is an opportunity to say we get it, we're going to move forward. And bring along those who want to be with us and open up our arms and our doors and our tables to new voters and new opportunities.

HANNITY: Well, Michael, I couldn't be happier for you. Congratulations. I think the Republican Party is lucky to have you. You are a good friend. This was a big victory today. And I look forward to watching you lead the Republican out of exile into the promise land, victory.

STEELE: My name ain't Moses, it's Steele but we will do our best, my friend.

HANNITY: It's pretty close. No pressure, Michael.

STEELE: No pressure. I want to give a shout out to Chairman Duncan and thank him for his leadership of the RNC. He is a good man and good leader.

HANNITY: We are going to need everybody to unite together. And thanks for being with us, Michael. Congratulations.

STEELE: Thank you.

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