White House: Michael Steele's Comments on Race Are 'Silly'

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele's comment on "Good Morning America" today that he and President Obama have a slimmer margin of error because of their race was dismissed by the White House as "silly."

"Well, I think that is a fairly silly comment to make," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters today. "I think Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card, it's the credit card."

The embattled chairman played the race card today when asked on "Good Morning America" if he has a slimmer margin of error because he is African American.

"The honest answer is, 'yes,'" he said. "Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It's a different role for me to play and others to play and that's just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it."

"My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented, it's not old boy network oriented, so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise, if you will. That's rubbed some feathers the wrong way," Steele told "GMA's" George Stephanopoulos.

Today's "GMA" interview is not the first time Steele has asserted that his race plays a role in the criticism he has faced as RNC chairman. During a recent interview with Washingtonian Magazine, which took place before the sex-club controversy, Steele said, "I don't see stories about internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?"

Steele is under fire by his own party members for what some people consider lavish spending -- $17,000 for private jet travel, $13,000 for limousines and car services and $9,000 for a trip to the Beverly Hills hotel. But the most controversial revelation was that RNC staffers spent nearly $2,000 at Voyeur West Hollywood, a sex-themed nightclub in Los Angeles. The employee who authorized the expense was fired, but then the RNC shot itself in the foot again later, sending a fundraising letter that mistakenly directed donors to call a phone-sex number.

Steele today said he won't resign despite calls for him to step down amid reports of excessive spending, and he said the spending issue is being blown up "larger than it needs to be."

"The reality of it is, when I first heard about this behavior going on, I was very angry, and we dealt with it. We got to the bottom of it," Steele said. "We have been putting great controls in place for the last few months, as a matter of fact, on some of our financing."

Steele defended himself against criticism that the RNC is spending more money that it's taking in, saying that it has outraised the Democratic National Committee in seven of the past 12 months.

"A lot of these -- our donors, our major donors, are used to a particular type of an event. We've been scaling those back. So, you know, I think a lot of this is really kind of taking it a lot further down the road and blowing it up larger than it needs to be," he said.

"At the end of the day, I've raised more money than the Democrats in seven out of 12 months. I carry over the same amount of money as the DNC in 2010," Steele added. "The bottom line is, I hear my donors, I hear our base out there, I hear the leadership. And we're taking steps to make sure that we're even more -- how shall we say it -- fiscally conservative in our spending and certainly making sure the dollars are there when it's time to run our campaigns."

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