In an interview with CNN's John King today, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's recent comments that President Obama may hold a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview.
Speaking to the National Review recently, Gingrich wondered, "What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior."
When King mentioned the comments to Steele on Wednesday, the RNC chair rejected the idea that Gingrich was "race-baiting or playing to the birther crowd" and said that because Obama's dad is from Africa, he is "of Kenyan, African descent":
KING: Former Speaker of the House, the man who is moving around as if he might run for president, said that the President of the United States has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" view of the world.
STEELE: Who said that?
KING: Newt Gingrich.
KING: Is that an appropriate way to have this conversation, as a Republican leader and as a black man? Is that how you want to have this conversation?
STEELE: I don't know what being black has to do with it, but --
KING: You don't think saying the President has a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" worldview is perhaps trying to play to the lowest common denominator in politics?
STEELE: No, I don't think so, no. How do you make that stretch? Where's his dad from?
KING: What does that have to do with --
STEELE: He's of Kenyan, African descent. He has an African, continental descent. So I don't know where you're going with that. But let me just say --
KING: So you don't think it's race-baiting or playing to the birther crowd?
STEELE: No, I don't. I don't see that stretch. I know some folks out there want to, but I don't see that. I know Newt. I know that's not his mindset on that. He's talking about a worldview that comes from a different part, whether it's Europe, the African continent.
Steele has made bringing more people of color into the GOP a personal goal. In February 2009, he touted his "off the hook" strategy to attract more minorities, saying the conservative message needed to work in "urban-suburban hip-hop settings." In the past, Steele has refused to defend Obama against racial attacks -- such as Glenn Beck saying the President has a "deep-seated hatred for white people" -- saying that no one defended him when he ran for Maryland's U.S. Senate seat. "I don't play the race card, I don't play the race game, the way some tend to want to do," Steele said.
Part of the reason Steele may be defending Gingrich is that the former House Speaker has repeatedly stuck up for him. After news of questionable RNC expenditures at a strip club dogged Steele and raised questions about his leadership, Gingrich publicly told Republicans to stop focusing on him and worry instead about defeating Democrats in November. In January, Gingrich said, "I'm a fan of Steele's. I think he is learning, he is smart and he will be an important part of where we're going."
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