Image on blog portrays Steele in minstrel makeup

Republican senatorial candidate's campaign describes the doctored photograph as `gutter racism'

October 28, 2005|By DAVID NITKIN | DAVID NITKIN,SUN REPORTER

A liberal blog by an African-American writer has posted a doctored photo of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in minstrel makeup, an image the Steele campaign blasted as "gutter racism" and part of a coordinated Democratic attack against him.

The picture was first displayed Wednesday night on the News Blog, a Web site run by Steve Gilliard, under the headline "Simple Sambo wants to move to the big house."

It was posted the same day that Steele, a Republican, announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, and received attention yesterday when Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee for governor in Virginia, removed his campaign ads from the blog in protest.

In an e-mail interview with The Sun, Gilliard said he considers Steele a traitor to his race because he initially dismissed news that his political partner, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., held a golfing fund-raiser this year at the Elkridge Club of Baltimore, which at the time had never admitted a black member in its 127-year history.

"Generally, it is an accurate depiction of Steele's groveling, lackey behavior," Gilliard said of the image. "It is 2005, and such an institution [as the Elkridge Club] should not exist, nor should a governor with as many black people as the state of Maryland attend a function at such a place.

"My point is that politicians like Michael Steele insult us, use us as whipping boys and then run to their white supporters to show how loyal they are. The suffering and problems of black Americans are beyond their concern," said Gilliard, who lives in New York City. "I find it wildly humorous that Lt. Gov. Steele calls me, a black man, racist, but then refuses to condemn the governor attending an event at an all-white country club."

A spokesman for Steele said the photo was "disgusting" and the "worst kind of gutter racism."

"Whether it's coming from African-Americans or others, racism should be called what it is," said Leonardo Alcivar, adding that a "pattern" of below-the-belt Democratic attacks against Steele seems to be developing. Last month, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee disclosed that workers used Steele's Social Security number to obtain his credit report illegally.

Derek Walker, of the Democratic Party of Maryland, denied that Gilliard's News Blog was part of a coordinated effort.

"This rogue attack on Lt. Gov. Steele is distasteful, despicable and degrading," Walker said. "Democrats are ready to engage Michael Steele in a spirited discussion about the issues that matter to Maryland and to our nation. ... Hatred and bigotry are enemies of the Democratic principles of fairness and opportunity for all people."

Steele has endured similar criticism before that his positions are not in line with those of many other African-Americans. He said that during a 2002 campaign debate, Democratic supporters tossed Oreo cookies at him - an object that is black on the outside and white inside. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, once called Steele an "Uncle Tom" in a quote published in 2001, although Miller later said it was taken out of context.

Staffers for Kaine spotted the image early yesterday, and asked that a banner advertisement that cost the campaign $350 be removed from the site.

"It's a racist image, and we did not want our campaign ad appearing next to a racist image," said Delacey Skinner, a spokeswoman for Kaine.

Gilliard reacted angrily, changing his site to read, "Tim Kaine is a coward." He was defended by another liberal Web log, the Daily Kos. "The last thing any of us need are bloggers afraid to be themselves lest they lose out on ad money," the blog said. "It's a chilling effect."

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