Democrats' criticism of Steele denounced by GOP

Response is to racially tinged comments in a Washington Times article Wednesday



Republican Party leaders denounced state Democratic lawmakers last night for racially tinged criticism made this week of Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele.

"Bigoted attacks like these ought to be an affront to any American who agrees with Dr. [Martin Luther] King's goal of a nation where people are judged according to the content of their character, not the color of their skin," said Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, keynote speaker at a state GOP fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore. "It seems to me it's time for the Democratic leadership to put a stop to these despicable acts."

The comments came in response to an article Wednesday in the Washington Times quoting several black Democratic leaders as saying that Steele, who is black, does not share the same political policies and values as most African-Americans.

The article concludes that the politicians believe some of the recent attacks against Steele are justified, such as a recent liberal blogger posting a doctored picture of Steele in minstrel makeup. But the lawmakers said their quotes were taken out of context, and they oppose playing racial politics.

Steele, who announced his candidacy Oct. 25 for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by longtime incumbent Democrat Paul S. Sarbanes, addressed the controversy in brief comments before introducing Mehlman.

He disputed the accusation that he does not represent black values, saying, "When Del. Salima S. Marriott says my values are not the values of black people, well this may come as a little bit of a surprise to my black mother, who instilled those values in me."

Steele called the comments "pathetic," and he said they "reflect a mindset that embraces the politics of personal destruction."

"If a few members of the Democratic Party want to engage in racist and illegal activities, then we'll let the people of Maryland be the judge of their actions," Steele said.

He said he has yet to receive an apology, but is appreciative of Kweisi Mfume, who is seeking the Democratic Senate nomination, for condemning the comments.

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