Ian Walters, the communications director of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is under fire for a remark he made Friday evening about former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele—saying he was elected as leader in 2009 “because he’s a black guy. That was the wrong thing to do.”
Steele told MSNBC’s Joy Reid Saturday morning that he was just outside the ballroom where the speech took place and was “a little shocked, a little disappointed.”
“I’m surprised that people still in the party feel this way and look at the contributions that anyone would make to the party through the prism of race,” Steele said. “It’s unfortunate, it’s stupid, it’s immature.”
Steele said Walters did call him to apologize, but added: “That’s not acceptable, that’s not enough.”
In a separate interview with the Observer, Steele of his tenure at the RNC, “My skin color has nothing to do with that.” He added that Walters should “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.”
Walters wrote to TPM that the remark was “obviously way, way, way out of context” but did not respond to follow up questions as to his meaning and intent.
The remark came in a portion of Walter’s speech when he was reminiscing about the CPAC held in 2009, where he met the woman who became his wife.
“We were somewhat lost as a group,” he said of the conservative movement that year. “We had just elected the first African-American president, and that was a big deal. That was a hill we got over and something we were all proud of. And we weren’t sure what to do. So, a little bit of cynicism, what did we do? This is a terrible thing: we elected Mike Steele as RNC chair because he’s a black guy. That was the wrong thing to do.”
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
Steele has angered many on the right with his vocal criticism of President Trump over the past year. After Trump asked members of Congress in a closed-door meeting why the U.S. had to accept immigrants and refugees from “shithole countries,” Steele said “the evidence is incontrovertible” that Trump is racist. When Trump endorsed Roy Moore after many women came forward to accuse the failed Alabama Senate candidate of sexually assaulting them when they were young teens, Steele said the nation “no longer has a moral compass” under his administration.
On Saturday, Steele confronted CPAC’s Chairman Matt Schlapp about the incident in an interview on his SiriusXM show “Steele & Ungar.”
“In all candor, Ian is my colleague and my friend and I’m not going to separate myself from Ian,” Schlapp said, calling the “black guy” remark “unfortunate” and pointing out that Walters himself is a person of color.
Schlapp then tried to redirect the conversation to Steele, saying, “You’ve been rather critical of some of the more conservative aspects of the Trump phenomenon.”
Steele was not pleased.
“What the hell does my race have to do with any of that?” he shot back. “You mean to tell me that as a black conservative I can’t be critical of the President?”