Michael Steele Charges Racism Over ‘Slavish’ Comment

I’ve gotten two emails this morning from the Republican National Committee’s eCampaign flacking the idea that Rep. Stenny Hoyer made racist remarks about Maryland Lieutenant Governor/U.S. Senate nominee Michael Steele.

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele accused a leading Democratic congressman yesterday of racial insensitivity for saying the Republican candidate has “slavishly” followed the GOP.

Steele, an African American running for the U.S. Senate, was reacting to remarks by House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, who characterized Steele this week as having had “a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party.”

After speaking to members of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce gathered in Ocean City, Steele called the description “the height of arrogance.” “It goes to just the sheer craziness of some in the Democratic Party who think they can use racist terms and infer things about me just because I’m an African American Republican,” he said. Steele added that he expects his Democratic opponent, Benjamin L. Cardin, to “stand up and tell his team to sit down and shut up, stop the noise and apologize.”

Hoyer’s comments, first reported by MSNBC, came Sunday as he was introducing Cardin to a group of black business owners in Upper Marlboro, and his choice of words did not cause a visible reaction from the crowd. “There was absolutely no offense taken or noticed,” said event organizer Melvin Forbes, chief executive of Cool Wave Water. “It was obvious that Steny was simply talking about Steele’s constant support for the Republican agenda.”

The Rev. Anthony Evans, who heads a group called the National Black Church Initiative, released a statement last night calling Hoyer’s comment “outrageous and destructive.” “If I did not know Rep. Steny Hoyer, I would say that he is a racist,” Evans said.

“I shouldn’t have used those words,” Hoyer said yesterday, through a spokesman. “If Mr. Steele did in fact take offense let me assure him that none was intended.”

Cardin thanked Hoyer for addressing “this promptly, and we’re glad that he did.” But he also said Steele was trying to change the subject. “He’s looking for every excuse he can to avoid talking about the issues,” Cardin said.

Given the success of the Webb campaign’s flacking of the Macaca incident on the other side of the Potomac, I can understand the Steele team’s temptation here. But, geez, this is weak.

How weak? Even the gang at Power Line ain’t buying it. Paul Mirengoff observes, correctly, “This word is used all the time in politics to attack those who support a particular line. Let’s not draw any inferences from ordinary usage of the English language.”

So far, no word from Hugh Hewitt.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Actually, Hoyer pronounced it with a short “a” not a long one, and outraged officers of the National Association for the Advancement of Slavic People are protesting as we speak.

  2. MikeT says:

    The only thing that this sort of action accomplishes is making black people look bad. Black conservatives should be championing an end to “race issues,” but Steele has pulled out the liberals’ favorite weapon. I would expect this from a liberal black man like Al Sharpton, but conservative blacks of all black people should recognize that the effect of playing the race card is destructive on politics and black people in particular who get marginalized and pigeonholed by group identity politics.

  3. Steven Plunk says:

    Dumb. The word is not racist plain and simple. Steele should stop this nonsense immediately and get back to real issues.

  4. Wayne says:

    Calling a black man a slave. I can see this as being a racist term. I haven’t seen a video or audio of it but definitely could be use in a racial manner. It is like calling someone Uncle Tom. His name may be Tom and he may be an uncle but if he is of a certain race, it may be racial.

  5. Fersboo says:

    Given the context in which Cardin said the comment and given the way Democrats respond to words like niggardly, the Steele campaign is justified in pointing out the racist tone of the commment. But you know, it is just Steele, another Uncle Tom Oreo, so no harm, no foul.

  6. Derrick says:

    I would be carefull Fersboo. Republicans love the “plantation” metaphor for African-Americans and their support for the Democratic party. I’m not saying that Hoyer doesn’t deserve some heat for that remark, but you make slavery-type references outrageous at your party’s own risk.

  7. Just Me says:

    I put this in the same basket as the flack over “niggardly” although given how much traction it got among the PC police, it is hard to see much of a PC defense for this one.

    That said some pretty racist things have been waid and done regarding Steele in this campaign-but this mostly sounds like whining that would come from the left side of the PC spectrum.

  8. Michael says:

    The only thing that this sort of action accomplishes is making black people look bad. Black conservatives should be championing an end to “race issues,” but Steele has pulled out the liberals’ favorite weapon. I would expect this from a liberal black man like Al Sharpton, but conservative blacks of all black people should recognize that the effect of playing the race card is destructive on politics and black people in particular who get marginalized and pigeonholed by group identity politics.

    Think you could have used the adjective “black” a few more times in that post?

  9. While I agree that Steele was little too far out on a limb here, he was able to get an apology from Hoyer and score a few points there.

    There remains a double standard between parties. If Hoyer were a Republican (shudder) and Steele a Democrat and Hoyer made teh same comment, you can be sure the left wing would be all over Hoyer.

    As it is, this kind of hyper-senstivity on both sides must stop.

  10. jpe says:

    Given the context in which Cardin said the comment and given the way Democrats respond to words like niggardly

    That was totally ridiculous, too. This (D) wishes people would stop being so stupid. My side is probably worse on this, but it irks me no matter who does it.

  11. John David Washington says:

    Spam comment in violation of site policies deleted.

  12. Fersboo says:

    James, I know your site has had its share of trolls, but as the above comment from John David Washington illustrates, it is getting out of hand.

  13. James Joyner says:

    Fersboo,

    Just hadn’t gotten to it yet, since my Gmail inbox is sorted in inverse order. That’s not so much trolling as pure spam–long messages posted at any site where a keyword pops up.

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