Gibbs: RNC chair's problem is the 'credit card, not race card'

Under intense fire for the RNC's lavish expenses at unseemly locations like bondage-themed strip clubs, chairman Michael Steele sought to grant himself some leeway by pointing out that he's African-American.

"The honest answer is, 'yes,'" Steele said Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "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 just take that as a part of the nature of it."

It was his first media appearance since the news broke a full week ago, and the de facto GOP leader unequivocally shot down any suspicions that he may be resigning.

In a recent survey conducted by the National Journal before the most recent string of RNC expenses was revealed, 71 percent of GOP insiders deemed Steele a "liability" to the party.

He took on the criticisms Monday, making another racially-tinged reference as he labeled himself a "street-wise" operative.

"My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented ... so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise. That's rubbed some feathers the wrong way," Steele told host George Stephanopoulos.

Steele said some of his Republican critics are "blowing it up larger than it needs to be" and "a lot of people want to make more of it than it is."

Along with dropping $1,900 at the lesbian-themed nightclub in West Hollywood, the RNC has been assailed for other lavish expenses -- such as $13,000 for car and limousine services, $17,000 on private jet travels and $9,000 during a hotel stay in the Beverly Hills.

And that still wasn't all -- the organization spent thousands at the Ronald Reagan Museum shop in southern California, as well as $400 at a Capitol Hill liquor store.

The embattled chairman defended his leadership, claiming he has "carried over the same amount of money as the DNC into 2010" and that the RNC had "very good" fundraising successes in March and April.

"The bottom line is, I hear my donors, I hear our base out there, I hear the leadership," he said. "We're taking steps to ensure that we're, how should I say, even more fiscally conservative and to make sure the dollars are there" in November's elections.

Update: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs dismissed Steele's claim Monday that African-Americans have a "slimmer margin" of error and are held to a different standard.

"I think that is a fairly silly comment to make," Gibbs told reporters, according to Politico. "Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card; it's the credit card."

This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast April 5, 2010.

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