White House Takes Swipe at RNC’s Steele for ‘Silly Comment’ on Race and Obama

By Fred Lucas | April 6, 2010 | 6:59 PM EDT

In this Feb. 3, 2010 file photo Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele speaks at the John F. Kennedy School of Government on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – The White House weighed in on Monday concerning  controversy about Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, with spokesman Robert Gibbs saying the chairman’s problem was “not the race card -- it’s the credit card.”
The response came after Steele, the first black RNC chairman, compared himself with President Barack Obama, the first black president, and said they both have a “slimmer margin” for error than other officials do because of their race.
Steele is being criticized because an RNC staffer had reimbursed a near-$2,000 tab for a contractor who attended a sex-themed Hollywood night club with several guests. Steele had no direct involvement with the incident and he has since fired the RNC staffer who okayed the reimbursement. However, Steele has also faced criticism for his own spending on expensive limousines and hotels. 

For example, he arranged for the annual RNC winter meeting to take place in Hawaii instead of in Washington, D.C., where it usually occurs. According to the Philadelphia Examiner.com, the RNC's food budget under Steele has nearly doubled from $306,000 to $599,000, and "private flight costs have doubled and car expenses tripled."

Steele told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Apr. 5 that he had no intention of resigning from his leadership post. With regard to the Hollywood night club matter, Steele said, “When I first heard about this behavior, I was very angry.”
In response to a later question about whether there was a smaller margin of error because he was black, Steele said yes. Further, he said this problem extended to Obama, the first black president.

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

“The honest answer is yes -- it just is,” said Steele.  “Barack Obama has a slimmer margin than others. A lot of folks do. I mean it’s a different role for, you know, for me to play and others to play. And that’s just the reality of it.”
Asked Monday if he agreed, White House Press Secretary Gibbs seemed to say Steele’s problems cannot be attributed to race.
“I think that is a fairly silly comment to make,” Gibbs said. “I think Michael Steele’s problem is not the race card -- it is the credit card.”

In Steele's defense, as the Philadelphia Examiner.com reported, RNC Budget Chairman Louis M. Pope said that "Michael Steele does travel more, but he's in far more demand. He's a huge part of the fundraising apparatus. Nobody is living it up at the RNC. There are a number of upscale events, but those are all profitable."