This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Feb. 16, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Our top story tonight: There was more fallout following Howard Dean's comments last week at a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.
As we told you last night, Dean was quoted by the Associated Press as saying on Friday, quote, "You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room? Only if they had the hotel staff in here."
Now today prominent conservative African-Americans demanded an apology, calling the remarks racially insensitive.
Joining us now is one of the upset Republicans, Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele. And also joining us is former California Democratic congressman, Tony Coelho is with us.
Guys, thanks for being on board. If I can...
LT. GOV. MICHAEL STEELE, MARYLAND: Good to be with you.
HANNITY: Let me — let me ask — you sent out a statement today, Mr. Lieutenant Governor, and in the statement, you said you were outraged over these racially insensitive remarks, and you said this kind of backward thinking reminds us of a horrible time in history when blacks were only seen as servants. Tell us more.
STEELE: Well, I think it is rather presumptive to presume that the staff in the hotel is African-American. It's just that mindset that still exists and in some parts of America and certainly within the party, Democratic Party that says, you know, we've got your vote. Where are you going to go? What are you going to do? We can say what we want to say and do what we want to do. And there's no accountability.
If I or another, you know, Republican had made a statement like that, it would be all over the place. And so the reality is for me, when I read that and hear it, it's offensive, because what it says is you don't see me in any other role.
And, you know, why the staff? Why not an Italian staff? Why not an Hispanic staff? What are you — what's your point in making that and making that type of a statement?
So it just shows the level of insensitivity that I think is predominant a lot in our culture and how we address individuals and their respective communities.
HANNITY: Tony, good to see you again. Welcome back to the program.
TONY COELHO, FORMER CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN: Same here.
HANNITY: Congressman J.C. Watts has joined Mr. Steele in this regard. Other prominent conservative African-Americans are very offended by this.
Do you understand it and will you call on Mr. Dean to apologize for these remarks?
COELHO: Well, I don't want to call for Howard Dean to apologize, and I don't intend to. You're going to hear a lot more from Howard Dean, Sean, and you guys are going to try to beat up on him like you beat up on Kerry, like everything else...
HANNITY: You see nothing wrong with the remarks at all?
COELHO: It's typical of the Republican Party. Instead of concentrating on the 30 percent of the education programs that are cut in the budget by Bush, the governor and others are trying to create something out of nothing...
HANNITY: Tony, I don't have a lot of time. I don't want to talk about the budget. Do you see...
COELHO: ...And I was told by the Republican Governor of New York to apologize because of some of the comments that he was making about Howard Dean.
HANNITY: Do you see — do you see...
COELHO: So this is the drumbeat out dor the new guy on the block, let's beat him up and discredit him...
HANNITY: Here's my question, though.
COELHO: And they got a little carried away.
HANNITY: Do you see anything at all wrong with his comments, anything at all?
COELHO: Well, Sean, let me just tell you, there were about 200 people in the room. They gave Howard Dean — these are all black members of the Democratic Caucus, the Black Caucus, they gave Howard Dean a standing ovation.
Donna Brazile today, who is the daughter of a worker, a — hotel worker, she said she saw nothing wrong with it.
You know, the only people that are screaming about it are people like you and the governor and a few others. It's not even on the news wires today. So you're trying to make something out of nothing.
HANNITY: Well, you can say that.
COELHO: So therefore, the public is not paying attention.
HANNITY: Let me give you another example. Let me play a tape here, and this is Congressman Rangel. Let me tell you, I had Congressman Rangel on my radio show earlier today, and he's been often — often he's been on this program. I don't think he is racist. I've spent time around him.
But if a Republican said something like what Mr. Dean said or what Congressman Rangel said, I'm saying there would — there is a double standard —there would be more outrage.
Let's listen to Charlie Rangel.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. CHARLIE RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: You have to remember, you know, Lyndon Johnson was one of the best presidents we had, and he was a redneck out of Texas.
HANNITY: Is Bill Clinton a redneck?
RANGEL: Of course he was; he's from Arkansas.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HANNITY: Michael Steele, if I was from Arkansas I think I'd be offended by that.
STEELE: Well, that's the kind of rhetoric I'm talking about. I mean, why do we have to have this kind of discourse in politics today? Why do we have to take it to the personal and the baseless? I mean, the reality is yes, he makes a statement like that in a room full of African-Americans, and they applaud it. And that to me — that to me is very disturbing.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: It's Alan Colmes. Good to have you both on the show.
STEELE: Hey, Alan.
COLMES: Mr. Steele, is Howard Dean a racist?
STEELE: No, I don't know. I don't think Howard Dean is a racist. I would never classify Howard Dean as a racist based on his public statements, but Howard Dean is a little bit insensitive and Howard Dean is a little bit presumptive to assume that he can stand before a black audience and make that type of a quip.
COLMES: As I see it, and I don't pretend to have the same sensitivity any African-American man or woman would have, but as I see it, he was trying to metaphorically speak about how blacks would not, unless they had to be there...
STEELE: But Alan, he did not — Alan...
COLMES: ... attend the Republican National Committee meeting.
COLMES: Let me just get out my question here, sir.
COLMES: They wouldn't do it voluntarily. That was the point he was making metaphorically. He wasn't knocking African-Americans or suggesting only blacks are hotel workers.
I mean, do you think you want to really pounce on him for this? Is this the battle you want to fight?
STEELE: It's not a question of — it's not a question of pouncing on him. Would it not have been enough just to end his sentence where — right before he went on, unless they worked — unless we brought in the hotel staff? If you read his quote, he could have ended it about four or five words before he made that inappropriate statement.
COLMES: Rather than talking about real issues that Americans need to be addressing, you guys want to pounce on Howard Dean every time he opens his mouth and you want to knock him for being too liberal.
STEELE: No. No.
COLMES: The Republicans are angry at him. Where are the Democrats? Why isn't Donna Brazile angry about it?
STEELE: I'm not — I'm not angry at — I'm not angry at Howard Dean for anything other than being insensitive to the African-American community more broadly. And that's the point here.
You don't just — I don't care who you are, Alan. You don't just get up and make those types of statements and get away with it.
COLMES: Tony Coelho, the New York state Republican Party chairman, as you suggested, you started to say a couple of moments ago, Steven Minarik, said about Democrats of the party, Barbara Boxer, Lynne Stewart, and Howard Dean, comparing Howard Dean and Barbara Boxer to a lawyer just convicted of helping a terrorist.
And the implication there, he said comparing Howard Dean to a terrorist sympathizer. I don't see Democrats getting all upset about that...Tony?
COELHO: No, and it's interesting. The Governor of New York, a Republican, Mr. Pataki, demanded an apology from the Republican chairman.
You know, I think that the governor [Gov. Pataki] is right to be concerned, if that's what he is. I applaud him for his successes and so forth. But what he ought to really be concerned about is that in the president's budget he cuts the office of employment for disabled people by 50 percent. Eighty percent plus of black Americans who are disabled are unemployed. He ought to be up in arms about that.
COLMES: Lieutenant Governor Steele, shouldn't African-Americans be a little more concerned about attracting the black vote?
COELHO: That's OK. That's OK.
STEELE: But the president also, Tony, the president also is trying to empower the African-American community for the first time, giving them something they can own through their Social Security benefits. For generations, for generations...
COELHO: He also cut out...
STEELE: Let me finish, sir. African-Americans.
COLMES: Hold on, Tony. Let the governor speak.
COELHO: He's cutting out law enforcement in the cities. How is he helping black Americans? They don't agree with you overwhelmingly.
STEELE: It's not cutting out law enforcement for the cities. No, no. He's not cutting out law enforcement for the cities.
COELHO: He is, too. He's cut it back, read the budget.
STEELE: He's — I've read the budget. Trust me, the president's got the right course.
HANNITY: We've got to run. Lieutenant Governor, good to see you.
STEELE: Good to see you.
HANNITY: Tony, thank you for being with us. Appreciate you being on board.
COELHO: Thank you, Sean.
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