Michael Steele shot back Saturday at a Conservative Political Action Conference official for a racial comment he made about the former Republican National Committee chairman at a dinner Friday night.
At the Ronald Reagan dinner, CPAC communications director Ian Walters said Steele was elected RNC chair “because he’s a black guy.”
“We were somewhat lost as a group, we had just elected the first African-American president, and that was a big deal and that was a hill that we got over and it was something that we were all proud of and we weren’t sure what to do, and in a little bit of cynicism what did we do? This is a terrible thing. We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do,” Walters said.
Steele told MSNBC on Friday that Walters called him and tried to apologize, but he rejected the apology.
“He did call and he tried to explain himself and said what he was thinking, he relayed it back to Barack Obama’s election, and then he said at one point, ‘I apologize,’ and I just said, you know, that’s just not acceptable, that’s not enough,” Steele recalled.
Walters did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment on Saturday.
According to the news outlet Observer, Steele called the remark “painfully stupid.”
“I wanted to talk to [CPAC chair] Matt Schlapp first, but I think it’s painfully stupid what he said,” Steele told Observer. “If he feels that way I’d like him to come say that to my face. And then I’d like him to look at my record and see what I did. I can’t believe an official of CPAC would go on stage, in front of an audience, and say something like that. I’ve been a strong supporter of CPAC for many years, and I thought they raised them better than that here.”
Steele, who co-hosts the SiriusXM radio show “Steele and Ungar,” also discussed the comment on their show Saturday morning.
“I asked a quick question in a session about my own story and journey as a young 17-year-old growing up in Washington, D.C., and what drew me to the Republican Party,” Steele said. “The question I have today is, what would a 17-year-old African-American male or female think about the Republican Party in joining it in 2018?”
Steele, who was elected the first African-American to serve as the head of the RNC in 2009, continued: “It does reflect a certain attitude that folks inside the party are seemingly more comfortable with right now.”
“It also goes to insulting not just me – I mean, I can deal with that, I’m a big boy, put my pants on and go into the fight – but it goes after everyone in the RNC who knew me and worked with me and supported the effort that I undertook to become chairman,” he added. “But even more broadly, it insults every African-American and calls into question their personal accomplishments.”
The Friday night dinner was part of CPAC, an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and politicians taking place this week outside of Washington at the National Harbor in Maryland.