Michael Steele's Howard University Town Hall

Last night, the chairman of the RNC was mocked and heckled during a health care speech at the historically black university. What's the story behind his brutal reception?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Howard University has no love for Michael Steele. When the RNC Chairman spoke about health care at the historically black university last night, he promoted GOP talking points about personal choice and responsibility, and emphasized how important it is for young people to get insured. Nothing about the speech was new or surprising. And yet, his reception at Howard was viciously cold. After a student activist from another university challenged Steele out of turn to say that her mother died of cancer because she couldn't afford medical treatment, the audience broke out into angry applause. The morning after, columnists say it should come as no surprise that Steele's "Freedom Tour" was met with such disdain at Howard University. They explain why Steele got the town hall treatment.

  • Michael Steele Is Not a Leader, said Elon James at The Root. Not in the black community or anywhere else. "For all of his attempts to reach out to the black community with his Hip-Hop Republican ideas and possibly soul food assisted membership drives, Steele misses the one thing (besides common sense, which he DOES NOT have) that is needed to deal with black folk: Likability." James was, to put it politely, unforgiving."Watching Steele talk to Howard was the equivalent of watching a house negro explain how great Massa' really is."
  • The Republican Party is Still Overwhelmingly White, said Dave Zirin at the Huffington Post. "His effort to connect with young black students got off to a rather cringe-worthy start when right before the billed "student dialogue" two dozen white members of area young Republicans arrived to sit in the reserved first two rows of the packed room. One wondered, as students grumbled, if Steele hired John Ashcroft to be his event manager." At The Washington Independent, David Weigel agreed. He said there were awkward moments caused by "hiccups in staging" at the event. "The first two rows of chairs in a room that filled up quickly were reserved for VIPs and for local young Republican activists." 
  • So Much for a Productive Dialogue, said Jada Smith at The Root. Smith said Duzak's outburst was "disrespectful and rude" to an audience that rarely gets the ear of the government. "So what do you think would have made the news? Twenty-something black college students showed up in droves for something other than a Li'l Wayne concert, but the air time will probably go to the white lady who was shouting until her face turned red."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.