Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele had a few words on Friday for Conservative Political Action Conference communications director Ian Walters, who said that the RNC only picked Steele to lead the party because “he was a Black guy.”
“I wanted to talk to [CPAC chair] Matt Schlapp first, but I think it’s painfully stupid what he said,” Steele told the 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.”
Walters made the comments at CPAC’s Ronald Reagan dinner held on Friday.
“We elected Mike Steele as chairman because he was a Black guy; that was the wrong thing to do,” Walters said.
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
At dinner, sitting with @alexnazaryan who can confirm. Comment was met with gasps at our table— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) February 24, 2018
Michael Steele is literally right outside the dinner right now pic.twitter.com/j8WXqqfnra— Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) February 24, 2018
“My skin color has nothing to do with that even if he thinks it does,” Steele said.
People on Twitter found Walters’ comments offensive, and many have called for his resignation.
Do the honorable thing and resign immediately….the GOP has no place for racial prejudice and innuendos like what you said…your comments make it harder to craft and deliver our opportunity message to blacks and ethnic minorities.— Victor Edozien (@VictorEdozien) February 24, 2018
Michael Steele is one of the most knowledgable political people out there. Add to that he's one of the nicest guys you can meet. But CPAC communication director Ian Walters now says they only elected Steele RNC chair because he was black. This is white supremacy on parade.— (((DeanObeidallah))) (@DeanObeidallah) February 24, 2018
Ian Walters GOP Communications Director should resign. Rascist remark toward Michael Steele represents everything I voted against to MAGA. Step down you are GOP Establishment and belong with the Democrats.— Patrick Brannon (@PrescottBobcat) February 24, 2018
Walters tweeted later in the evening that he apologized to Steele.
I spoke with Mike Steele and apologized because the words I used do not capture my heart https://t.co/fG5vUqPqQp— Ian B. Walters (@IanBWalters) February 24, 2018
Sometimes when you speak, the words that come out do not reflect what’s intended. Many of us were critics of how Chairman Steele performed at the RNC. He is a good man, and he did his best.— Ian B. Walters (@IanBWalters) February 24, 2018
Steele, however, was not moved by Walters’ apology.
Michael Steele on #Lastword: "I thought conservative leaders had moved past racist remarks. Tonight at CPAC I found out I was wrong. Ian Walters called me and offered a few excuses but I don't accept that insincere apology." https://t.co/hHvX9fKM5I— McBlondeLand (@McBlondeLand) February 24, 2018