RNC Chairman Steele Praises Harold Ford Jr., Renounces 'Fear-Gate' Fundraising Appeal

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RNC chairman Michael Steele
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  • RNC chairman Michael Steele
In a talk with reporters prior to his largely inspirational address at Saturday night’s local Lincoln Day banquet, Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele expressed solidarity with Democrat Harold Ford Jr. and condemned a widely discussed RNC fundraising presentation some have dubbed “Fear-Gate.”

Reminded that, on his accession to his party’s chairmanship in early 2009 he had been treated as persona non grata by an ultra-conservative fringe of the GOP, Steele was asked how he viewed the intensely negative reaction some New York Democrats had bestowed on former Memphis congressman Harold Ford Jr. during Ford’s recent trial run as a U.S. Senate candidate from New York.

Steele and Ford, who abandoned his projected Senate bid from New York last week, have long been acquainted and recently appeared together at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as part of a Black History Month observance.

The RNC chairman responded as follows:

“I’m a huge fan and friend of Harold ford. I’ve known Harold for over 10 years, from his days back in Washington. I have a great deal of respect for him. He and I would call each other from time to time on the campaign in 2006 with us both running for the Senate, and, after we both lost, I remember telling him, I said, ‘Look, we had this all wrong. You should have run for the Senate from Maryland, and I should have run from Tennessee. We’d both be in the United States Senate right now.’

“And I think his efforts to consider running for the U.S. Senate from new York really exposed a lot, and caused some consternation among the, you know, the establishment of the Democratic party. But Harold is his own man, and he’s going to find the time and the way when he’s, you know, really prepared to jump into this thing if he wants to be in office again to do it. And when he does, I think the people of New York will pay a great deal more attention to him than his party did.”

Steele was also asked to respond to the controversy that rose up this past week over a power-point presentation delivered in February by RNC finance director Rob Bickhart to top donors and fundraisers at a party retreat in Boca Grande, Florida.

The presentation, also elaborated as a 72-page document, was leaked to Politico.com, which published its essentials, including a cartoon likeness of President Obama as The Joker and similar unflattering caricatures of other leading Democrats and a stated emphasis on inspiring “fear”of Democrats among likely voters and donors.

Acknowledging that the presentation had met with a largely negative public reaction — “rightly so” —Steele dissociated himself from it as something “given to ten people in a private meeting” and renounced it as “not the kind of presentation that I want to see made at the RNC.”

Steele said, “I don’t’ need to scare, we don’t need to scare anybody into contributing to the RNC. I’ve sent the word out, ‘Don’t even think you’re gong to get away with that kind of behavior.’

Promising that the matter would be dealt with “internally” at the RNC, Steele said, “I was not happy to see it. I have been the victim of that kind of stupidity. Some of my friends have…And we saw it last year in the presidential race. It’s just not what people want to see.”

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