Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele blasted Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) communication director Ian Walters’ claim he was only elected into his position because of his race.
Walters’ told guests at the conference’s Ronald Reagan dinner Friday evening the RNC “elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a black guy, that was the wrong thing to do.”
Steele said he was surprised by Walters’ remarks, and defended his record as RNC chair.
“I wanted to talk to [CPAC chair] Matt Schlapp first, but I think it’s painfully stupid what he said,” he told Observer Saturday. “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 — who served as chairperson of the RNC from 2009 until 2011 — said Walters’ remarks “shows a lack of maturity and a lack of understanding of the work we did,” adding his “skin color has nothing to do with that even if he thinks it does.”
Walters later apologized to Steele and backtracked on his remarks on Twitter.
“Sometimes when you speak, the words that come out do not reflect what’s intended,” he tweeted. “Many of us were critics of how Chairman Steele performed at the RNC. He is a good man, and he did his best.”
Steele referred to Walters’ apology as “half-hammed” while speaking to Sirius XM Saturday, and told MSNBC: “His words came out exactly as they were intended, his words came out exactly as he felt them.”