Steele: GOP Can Put Away Its “Scarlet Letter, ‘R’”

By Teddy Davis

Jan 30, 2009 6:22pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis Reports: Former Maryland Lt. Gov. and new RNC Chair Michael Steele speaks during the Republican National Committee’s winter meetings in Washington D.C.
Ferdous Al-Faruque/ ABC News Newly elected GOP chair Michael Steele said Friday that Republicans can put away the "scarlet letter, ‘R,’" that he thinks the party earned prior to the 2006 midterm elections. "The bottom line was the American people had lost faith in our leadership," said Steele. "We entered into a contract with them in 1994 and they expected us to honor it. In the way we would lead, in the way we would serve, in the way we would protect their interests. And we abrogated that contract. And that’s why that scarlet letter at that time was placed their by the people." "That was then and this is now," he continued. "And this is a new moment for our party. And we can take that scarlet badge off and wear a very proud ‘R’ on our chest." When Steele was running for the U.S. Senate from Maryland in July of 2006, he anonymously described his Republican affiliation as an "impediment" to his electoral prospects while speaking at an "on background" luncheon with reporters in Washington, D.C. Without identifying Steele by name, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank wrote up the "Scarlett Letter" comments on  July 25, 2006. Later that day, after Milbank’s column was published, ABCNEWS.com caught up with Steele in Takoma Park, Md., and confirmed that the future chair of the Republican National Committee was the anonymous Senate candidate who had criticized the GOP’s handling of the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina.  Read Dana Milbank’s 2006 Washington Post column here. Read the 2006 ABCNEWS.com story which identified Steele as the anonymous Republican Senate candidate who had criticized the GOP here. ABC News’ Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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