NRA President Wayne LaPierre’s repeating his “good guy with a gun” argument and President Trump’s suggestion we arm teachers may have dominated the Conservative Political Action Conference’s (CPAC) news cycle, but guns weren’t the only glaring topics on display. So too was CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters’ comments late Friday about former RNC Chair Michael Steele, who was in the room when he made them. “We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do,” Walters told the crowd at Friday night’s Ronald Reagan dinner.
Needless to say, Steele was not happy about Walters’ suggestion that he had been the Republican party’s token black guy. Speaking with Observer, the ex-RNC official said, “I wanted to talk to [CPAC chair] Matt Schlapp first, but I think it’s painfully stupid what he said”:
“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 onstage 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 refused to “project” whether or not Walters’ comment was indicative of the CPAC or the GOP as a whole. However, he did stress that what Walters said “shows a lack of maturity and a lack of understanding of the work we did and the work we continue to do. My skin color has nothing to do with that even if he thinks it does.”
UPDATE #1 – 2 pm ET: Steele sat down with CPAC Chairman Matt Schlapp on Saturday on SiriusXM to discuss Walters’ comments and Steele’s initial response. “I’m sorry that we’re even having this conversation,” Schlapp began, noting that his organization’s communications director had used “unfortunate words.” Needless to say, Steele wasn’t entirely buying it. “It was stupid, not unfortunate! Call it what it is!” he declared. “It is stupid to sit there and say we elected a black man a chairman of the party and that was a mistake. Do you know how that sounds to the black community?”
Schlapp asked Steele to “have some grace” and not to “take the worst out of what he said,” but the ex-RNC chair wasn’t having it:
“I’ve spent 41 years in this party. 41. All right? I’ve taken crap you have no idea about, and I’ve 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’ve been critical of this party.’ There’s only one word I can say, and I can’t say it on this air.”
You can watch the whole exchange below: