WATCH: At the Ronald Reagan Dinner at CPAC, ACU Communications Director Ian Walters said the RNC hired Michael Steele as chairman in 2009 "because he’s a black guy." pic.twitter.com/g6YcyLET5w
— NBC News (@NBCNews) February 24, 2018
Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele had choice words for a CPAC official this week who alleged Steele was only elected to the position because of his race.
The controversy unfolded Friday, Feb. 23, after Ian Walters, Communications Director for the American Conservative Union, suggested the RNC only selected Steele in response to the nation electing its first Black president, Barack Obama.
“We were sort of lost as a group,” Walters told conference-goers at the Reagan dinner. “We had just elected the first African-American president, and that was a big deal … and it was something we were all proud of. And we weren’t sure what to do.”
“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,” he added. “That was the wrong thing to do.”
Steele seemed to be the only one shocked by the insinuation and didn’t take too kindly to Walters’ claims. During an interview with MSNBC’s Joy Reid, the longtime Republican said he had one of those “what the ???” moments upon hearing what was said about him.
“I’m surprised that people in the party still feel this way and look at the contributions that anyone would make to the party through the prism of race,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s stupid … I hope it’s not a reflection of the leadership of CPAC.”
Steele said he felt the comment was a reflection of the nation’s political climate and expressed concern over the Republican party’s comfortability in expressing such racist views.
“We have allowed this element to have a voice, we have given countenance to it, we have given it the space to express itself,” he added. “There is no taking that back. You can’t deny that that has been freed up.”
Social media critics, however, argued that racism among conservatives has been an open secret for some time now, suggesting Steele should be unsurprised.
Why is Michael Steele still in the Republican Party?
— deray (@deray) February 24, 2018
Black people when we hear that Michael Steele was made the head of the GOP because he's Black… pic.twitter.com/27Fd3603ie
— W. Kamau Bell (@wkamaubell) February 24, 2018
The car comes in 30 minutes and I’m still in bed because I can’t figure out if Michael Steele is trolling or he REALLY thought the Republican Party hired him because he was most qualified, and not just simply because he is Black. pic.twitter.com/5XXJK46882
— April (@ReignOfApril) February 24, 2018
It's not like Michael Steele and most Republicans of color don't know they're being used to make the GOP look like it's not a branch of the KKK disguised as a political party. They know.
— Kenny BooYah! (@KwikWarren) February 24, 2018