RNC Chair Steele Refuses to Cancel Speech at Sharpton Event

Steele photoAngela Sailor, the Republican National Committee’s Director of Coalitions, called me today to inform me that Michael Steele will speak as scheduled at the annual conference of Al Sharpton’s group, the National Action Network (NAN). On April 4, NLPC asked Steele to withdraw from the event, which takes place tomorrow through Saturday in New York City.

When I went through each of our objections, Ms. Sailor gave me some permutation of the following:

Chairman Steele is going to New York to speak to 500-1,000 people in a ballroom to ask them to support Republican candidates.

When I asked if Steele might have better luck elsewhere, she claimed that many of the attendees are “independent,” who she characterized as “swing voters.” When I queried whether most attendees, who are paying for travel and New York hotel rooms, were more likely activists committed to Sharpton’s message, Sailor stuck to the script. She responded:

If we take time to talk to folks in a ballroom, they will support our candidates if we go and ask them.

Since I got nowhere with that, I asked if she or Steele regretted undercutting Sharpton critics like NLPC, she stated:

We are looking at this the same way as Newt Gingrich who has locked arms with Sharpton.

That’s exactly the problem. And that is why we criticized Gingrich well before the Steele controversy.

Of course, Ms. Sailor’s job is to build coalitions so I asked her whether Steele might offend Rush Limbaugh listeners by hobnobbing with Sharpton, who led the assault on Limbaugh’s NFL ownership bid, a campaign based on fabricated quotes. She claimed that the Steele speech “was not about Sharpton,” and then reverted to the now-familiar party line.

I was most anxious to get an answer to the most important question of all, whether responsible people should associate with a demagogue who has a history of accusing innocent persons of hate crimes, such as in the Tawana Brawley episode and the Duke rape case. I was told again that it was “not about Sharpton,” and that those incidents had “no relationship” to Steele’s decision to go ahead with the speech.

Even though the futility of my questions was already established, I followed-up by asking if Steele would speak at an event organized by former Klansman David Duke. I should have anticipated the answer: It is not about David Duke.

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