GOP Chair Hits Dems' 'Bigoted Attacks' on Black Candidate

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The chairman of the Republican National Committee Thursday lashed out at Democrats for what he called their "bigoted attacks" directed at Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a black conservative running for the U.S. Senate in 2006.

"The party that was founded to eliminate slavery will not be whole again until we welcome more African Americans back home," said RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman during a prepared speech at a fund-raising event in Baltimore. "Unfortunately, the Democrats will stop at nothing to keep that from happening.

"Here in Maryland, we have seen some very disturbing examples of how far they will go," he said before listing a number of race-based attacks Democrats have launched against Steele.

Mehlman noted that in 2001, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., called Steele -- who was then head of the state GOP -- an "Uncle Tom," though the Prince George's County Democrat later apologized for the remark.

During the 2003 gubernatorial campaign, Democratic supporters pelted Steele with Oreo cookies during a debate at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Mehlman said, adding that Steele and the man heading the ticket, gubernatorial candidate Robert Ehrlich, won the election that November.

"Of all the Republicans running for Senate across America," Steele "is the only one that the Democrats targeted by illegally acquiring his credit report," Mehlman continued.

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, two members of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staff found the lieutenant governor's Social Security number on court documents and used it to access his credit data. That action cost the staffers their jobs, and the DSCC apologized to Steele over the incident.

During his speech, Mehlman also said that Steele "has been offensively caricatured and referred to as 'Simple Sambo'" on the News Blog -- a liberal website run by Steve Gilliard. The black New Yorker posted a doctored photo depicting the lieutenant governor as a black-faced minstrel saying: "I's Simple Sambo, and I's running for the Big House."

"[S]ome of the most prominent Democrat candidates in the state -- people like [Montgomery County Executive] Doug Duncan and [Baltimore Mayor] Martin O'Malley -- won't even say that's wrong," Mehlman declared Thursday, referring to two Democrats planning to run for governor next year.

"Bigoted attacks like these ought to be an affront to any American who agrees with Dr. King's goal of a nation where people are judged according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin," he said.

"And the deafening silence we hear from leaders of the Democrat party in response to these attacks speaks volumes," Mehlman added. "This is not politics as usual. This is bigotry, pure and simple.

"It is time for the Democrat leadership to put a stop to these despicable attacks," he said. "Every decent person -- Republican or Democrat -- should demand it."

Democrats at both the state and national level have fired other barbs at Steele, with Phil Springer, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), calling him "arrogant" and "out of touch" and stating that his election would be "a nightmare for Maryland in the Senate."

Nevertheless, Steele -- who is a native of Prince George's County, Md. -- was courted for several months by national GOP operatives before he announced his intention to run for the seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Paul Sarbanes, a fact not lost on Mehlman.

"I can tell you one thing: No matter what the Democrats say, we will not be intimidated by these vile tactics," he said. "The Republican Party can and will continue to recruit the very best candidates ... and we will support them, just as we are supporting Michael Steele, with everything we've got."

Earlier in the day, members of a black conservative group issued statements echoing Mehlman's outrage.

"If we are going to get ahead politically, blacks must be active in all major political parties," said Project 21's Donald Scoggins. "This intimidation to keep us away from the party currently controlling the White House, Congress and many state and local governments -- including the governorship of Maryland -- is counterproductive."

Spokesman Kevin Martin added: "It's horrible that, as our nation buried civil rights icon Rosa Parks, those who lay claim to the mantle of the civil rights movement are continuing to engage in such despicable acts."

See Earlier Story:
'Arrogant' Black GOP Candidate Launches Senate Bid (Oct. 26, 2005)

Make media inquiries or request an interview with Randy Hall.

Subscribe to the free daily E-Brief.

E-mail a comment or news tip to Randy Hall.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.