That Time Joe Scarborough Mocked Michael Steele’s RNC Leadership in 2009: ‘Being Black Isn’t Enough’

Host denounces racially insensitive comments about ex-RNC chair, which is different than his 2009 comments on the matter

Last Updated: February 26, 2018 @ 7:08 AM

“Morning Joe” co-host Joe Scarborough defended former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele on Monday after a senior GOP official said Steele had only been elected to lead the RNC in 2009 because he was “a black guy.”

But Scarborough had a decidedly different view in 2009 when Steele was leading the Republican party.

“You know what the Republicans are learning right now: that sometimes being black isn’t enough. They thought we’re going to get a black guy to run our party,” he said with a squirming Mika Brzezinski at his side on an episode of “Morning Joe” nine years ago. “This is a lesson that Willie [Geist] and I learned growing up on the hardscrabble streets of the Mississippi Delta.

“You know what, we’re 12 minutes in and I’m just like … Explain yourself, seriously,” said Brzezinski.

“Oh, are you offended by that?” he sneered at his co-host. “Hey, hey everybody, I was joking. I did not grow up a young black man on the Mississippi Delta. That was Steve Martin in ‘The Jerk.’ Is that politically correct, Mika? I hope I didn’t offend any of your friends.”

He then repeated the original claim while imitating conservative commentator Pat Buchanan.

The context of the 2009 segment was over a spat between Steele and Rush Limbaugh in which Steele called the conservative radio host an “entertainer” whose program was often “incendiary.” Steele was ultimately forced to apologize for the comment.

“My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele told Politico at the time. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”

Scarborough took a very different tone on Monday after Conservative Political Action Conference communications chief Ian Walters said it was a mistake to put Steele in charge of the GOP during a speech at the convention on Friday.

“We elected Mike Steele to be the RNC chair because he’s a black guy; that was the wrong thing to do,” he said at the event’s Ronald Reagan dinner Friday.

Scarborough dedicated considerable airtime to the matter Monday, expressing shock and outrage while blasting the GOP for its response to the matter.

“We were all stunned that somebody said it was a mistake to select you as the head of the Republican Party because you were black,” he told Steele solemnly on Monday.

“This is a different planet,” said Brzezinski later in the show.

Steele, who has appeared on MSNBC to discuss the issue since TheWrap first broke the story, said it was evidence of Trump’s pernicious effect on the party.

“This Trumpification of the party is not just dangerous, it’s deadly to its future and I think that people have to be aware of that,” said Steele.

A rep for MSNBC did not immediately respond to request for comment from TheWrap.