BET.com
updated 7/19/2005 6:47:01 PM ET 2005-07-19T22:47:01

Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele back-pedaled Saturday on previous comments that downplayed Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s decision to hold a fundraiser in a restricted country club that allows blacks to enter but prohibits them from becoming members.

When Steele, who analysts suspect will run for a U.S. Senate seat against former NAACP president Kweisi Mfume in 2006, was first asked to comment on the location of the fundraiser, he referred to the flap as “all a bunch of nothing.”

During an interview with a Washington, D.C.-area radio station, Steele said his opinion has changed a bit. “I admit that my initial reaction to this was a little more flippant than it should have been. When I was posed with this question, my response was in the context of all the things I am fighting for and thinking about,” said Steele, stating that minority access to a better education is more important to the community than access to the restricted Elkridge Club in Baltimore.

“I’d encourage Elkridge and others to reconsider their policies, whether stated or unstated, and recognize that Maryland is a very diverse community with a lot of potential, and we shouldn’t cloud or hamper that potential with this kind of foolishness,” Steele said.

Several political leaders criticized Ehrlich for hosting the event at a place where his second-in-command would not be welcomed as a member.

In an interview with another radio station, Ehrlich said, "I don't know what their membership list is, and guess what? It's none of my business, nor is it any of your business."

Steele became the state’s lieutenant governor in 2003, becoming the first African American elected to statewide office and the first-ever Republican lieutenant governor in Maryland.

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