Video: Steele responds to RNC gaffes

  1. Closed captioning of: Steele responds to RNC gaffes

    the ammunition she needs: it's incredible. like nothing i've ever experienced.

    >>> michael steele responded to critics of his leadership of the republican national committee saying on good morning america he has no intention of stepping down. his comments on race, both about himself and barack obama , that is creating a buzz today. john harris joins us now. welcome, john. great to see you. let's talk about this. stephanopoulos asking michael steele if his race is a factor.

    >> do you feel that as an african-american, you have a slimmer margin off error than another chairman?

    >> the honest answer is yes.

    >> why is na?

    >> barack obama has a slimmer margin. a lot of folks do. it's a different role for me to play and others to play. and that's just the reality of it. i mean, but you take that as part of, part of the nature of it.

    >> now, john, some people would suggest that in fact, it's exactly the opposite. that michael steele has been able to hang on to his job because the republican reason he was select. and here is michael steele that presents a diverse face and more effective outreach, so the republicans have learned as steele has had missteps that cuts both ways .

    >> you know, we've covered this on the program all last week. i covered it on nightly news last week.

    >> when you sneak in bondage, andrea, i know you're all over it.

    >> but the bottom line is i did not mention race, but now that he has brought it up or put it in this context, it does seem a little bizarre. another part of the interview here, steele addressing the basic scandal bringing us back to bondage. let's watch.

    >> the employee was similarly dismissed for going against our internal policies and finance. we have been putting great controls in place for the last few months as a matter of fact on some of our financing. those numbers they talked about, i'm not staying in fancy hotels and the four seasons and flying around in corporate jets.

    >> he may not be now, but there was that number that jumped out at people. yes, the republicans pointed out democrats had a lot of similar items on their financial reports regarding fancy hotels and catering because that's the way you raise money with fat cat donors, but nobody had ever seen that. the jets that weren't at least --

    >> at the white house had a good life and steele 's problem is not the race card , it's the credit card and in fact, donors are upset with a amount of expenditures of the republican -- national committee's had and also with what seems to them a pension for distracting, diverting controversies of big donor , somebody who had been a volunteer, unpaid fund-raiser for the republican national committee has announced he's taking off.

    >> that's exactly why a lot of them are beginning to give their money to the republican governor's association, to other new groups.

    >> that's right. and so the republicans feel look, this should be a great republican year. they can take advantage of the trends in their direction in the polling. the last thing they want is the republican national committee chairman to be the story himself. unfortunately, that's what's happened for him over the past week.

    >> thank you very much. we have been all over this bondage story. long before anybody else came up with it.

updated 4/6/2010 5:11:12 PM ET 2010-04-06T21:11:12

Amid growing concern over Michael Steele's stewardship of the Republican National Committee, a New Hampshire activist resigned his seat Tuesday, citing an "out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington" within the party.

Meanwhile, a finance report that showed the RNC spent $982 at a Vermont winery for what it called "office supplies" was unlikely to calm the fretting.

Committeeman Sean Mahoney, a New Hampshire businessman who is mulling a run for Congress in November, joined the chorus of criticism from activists and donors over lavish spending by the RNC. Mahoney was the latest person to cut ties with the committee; Steele's top aide and one of his top outside advisers ended relationships with the committee Monday.

Republican officials said it was unlikely Steele would depart the committee, and Steele himself vowed to remain. Even so, revelations of an almost $2,000 tab at a sex-themed California night club and almost $1,000 at a winery did little to help his standing among the party activists who are optimistic about GOP chances in midterm elections and down on Steele's public profile.

"Not only has the out-of-touch, free-spending culture of Washington come to completely dominate the United States Congress, but I have watched with growing unease as the same mentality has seeped into our own national party," Mahoney wrote in a letter.

RNC spokeswoman Katie Wright thanked Mahoney for his services and gently disputed his claims.

"Many Americans across the country are concerned with the binge-spending, big-government agenda coming out of Washington and the RNC is committed to ensuring that every donor dollar goes to building the infrastructure needed to elect conservative candidates that believe in the fundamental principles of our party," Wright said in a statement.

Separately, Republicans said they had expected Mahoney to resign from the committee ahead of a potential campaign for office. Routine financial reports showing the questionable spending by the RNC hastened that; his opponents easily could link Mahoney to the RNC's spending patterns.

Mahoney said he had not made a decision whether to again seek office, but he planned to attend tea party events next week for Tax Day protests.

"There's a sense of arrogance that folks in Washington know best how to spend people's money," Mahoney said in an interview. "I hope this come as a wake-up call that they've got to get their shop in order. Hopefully, they'll take these messages to heart and focus on what they should be doing: winning elections for Republicans in November."

Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on fellow Republicans to stop criticizing Steele and focus instead on defeating Democrats this fall.

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Gingrich, who figures prominently in speculation about the 2012 presidential race, said on NBC's "Today" show that Steele is "capable of taking us through the midterm elections." But he also suggested that the embattled party chairman appoint an outsider to bring the party's finances under control.

GOP officials did not explain the $981 expenditures at Boyden Valley Winery of Cambridge, Vt., for what it labeled "office supplies." It was the latest nugget the RNC's critics cited in a report that included the embarrassing outing at a sex-themed club.

Steele was not present at the Voyeur Hollywood West on Jan. 31 when a group of young Republicans ran a tab picked up by the RNC. After reporters noted the bill in a funding report, the RNC fired a staffer it blamed for the outing and said it would be reimbursed by a donor who had attended.

That wasn't enough to stop the wave of criticisms.

Steele wrote a memo to RNC aides on Monday to announce chief of staff Ken McKay's resignation, to say he recognized the problems — "the buck stops with me" — and to promise more changes ahead.

"Every minute spent on distractions is an unacceptable missed opportunity to do what you do best — taking back our country for the American people," Steele wrote.

McKay's resignation prompted one of Steele's top advisers, Curt Anderson, to leave the committee's circle of consultants. As one of Steele's closets advisers, Anderson helped Steele make many of the party's decisions.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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