GOP Chairman Michael Steele Denies Tea Party Claim

Anti-Obama 'Tea Party' organizers say they snubbed Steele. He says he never wanted to participate.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Turmoil and controversy continue to swirl around new Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele. But the latest flare-up—a very public rejection of a request to speak at the anti-Obama, anti-tax "Tea Party" in Chicago on April 17—might not be his fault. "He never asked to speak," says a party official. "There was never an expectation nor formal request for our participation."

But here's how it's playing: The event's organizers, the Don't Go Movement in Chicago, say they received a request earlier this week from Steele to participate. Organizer Eric Odom, on the Don't Go site, thanked the GOP for the outreach and then shut the door to any play by Steele. "I very much appreciate the fact that Chairman Steele is now finally starting to reach out to the true grassroots side of the free-market movement in America. Unfortunately, it appears that he has only just decided to reach out after realizing how big the movement has gotten and how much media is now involved," he wrote in an E-mail to the RNC. "With regards to stage time, we respectfully must inform Chairman Steel [sic] that RNC officials are welcome to participate in the rally itself, but we prefer to limit stage time to those who are not elected officials, both in Government as well as political parties. This is an opportunity for Americans to speak, and elected officials to listen, not the other way around."

Yesterday, when I heard about this, I called the RNC, which said that Steele plans to be in Chicago for a party meeting and was just interested in getting info on the event and the attendees. "He's in a daylong meeting anyway, so we weren't ever going to be speaking," said an official. "It was just a 'Hey, we're going to be in town' call."

Well, after we E-mailed Don't Go, organizers there must have realized the news value of their claim. They put out a news release titled: "RNC Chairman Denied. Steele Not Wanted to Speak at Chicago Tea Party." The RNC's reaction: "They're just having a little fun."

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