CNN's Blitzer on Election of Steele: 'I Don't See a Whole Lot of Black People'

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer went out of his way to point out the apparent lack of diversity in the leadership of the Republican Party during a panel discussion on Friday’s Situation Room. Just minutes earlier, Michael Steele had been elected the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Blitzer brought up the race of many of those who had voted for him with Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez: “Take a look at the audience, though -- and I want to show our viewers a picture of the audience. Michael Steele, the first African-American leader of the RNC -- Leslie, I don’t see a whole lot of black people, at least in that group over there.” He went on to say, “It’s encouraging. I’m sure you’re encouraged that all these white people basically elected an African-American to be their leader.”

The anchor’s comment came during the CNN program’s regular “Strategy Session” discussion. Besides Sanchez, Blitzer hosted Democratic strategist Donna Brazile during the segment. He brought up Steele’s election as the first topic. After getting both women to respond to the news, Blitzer made his comment about the seeming lack of black people. Sanchez responded by conceding to his observation, in terms of the top RNC members, but then pointed out that “if you walked around that room, there’s so much diversity there. There was so much excitement for Michael Steele.”

Blitzer then followed up with his “encouraging” remark about the white RNC members electing the black Steele. Brazile replied by invoking how the Republicans have “taken a page from the Democratic Party” and pointed out how the DNC elected Ron Brown to be their chairman back in 1989.

The Democratic strategist is correct in her point, but since then, the DNC has not elected another African-American to lead their party, even with their emphasis on “diversity.” Has Blitzer ever raised that issue during his program?

The transcript of the relevant portion from the panel discussion, which began 50 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of Friday’s Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER: Take a look at the audience, though -- and I want to show our viewers a picture of the audience. Michael Steele, the first African-American leader of the RNC -- Leslie, I don’t see a whole lot of black people, at least in that group over there.

LESLIE SANCHEZ: Well, I think that’s a testament -- the party is not, in terms of committee men and women, is not inclusive of a lot of minorities. I think right now, that’s part of the party process. But there’s different parts to the party. I think if you walked around that room, there’s so much diversity there. There was so much excitement for Michael Steele. There was so much excitement about winning these elections, and if you look at 2009, you have governors’ races -- Virginia and New Jersey. He’s got to --

BLITZER: It’s encouraging. I’m sure you’re encouraged that all these white people basically elected an African-American to be their leader.

DONNA BRAZILE: Well look, there’s no question that the RNC, the Republicans -- clearly, they’ve taken a page from the Democratic Party. Ron Brown was the first African-American to lead a major political party --

BLITZER: The Democratic Party.

BRAZILE: Absolutely, back in 1989 -- he was a great party leader. Look, Michael Steele will have to grow the party, enlarge the party, and his biggest challenge is not only to rebuild the opposition, but to find ways to work with President Obama, who’s reaching out to Republicans, opening up a door for them to be involved in this process. 

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center