UPDATE: RNC Chairman Michael Steele now says that he "never asked to speak" at the Chicago Tea Party whose organizers publicly rejected him. Paul Bedard reports:
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."
"He never asked to speak," a party official told U.S. News & World Report. "There was never an expectation nor formal request for our participation."
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National Republican figures have been trying to attach themselves to the growing anti-tax "Tea Party" movement -- with limited success. Requests from politicians to speak at tea party events around the country have been rebuffed. "We're not a function of the Republican party," one Washington, D.C. tea partier told the Huffington Post. He didn't name names, But the Chicago Tea Party organizers have not only rejected a GOP party leader, but made the snub public.
When Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele asked to speak at the event, and organizer Eric Odom posted his response online. In it, he thanked Steele for "finally" reaching out to the grassroots. "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," Odom continued. He invited Steele to attend and listen, but not to speak.
As I mentioned on the phone the other day, 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.
That said, we're still excited to know that Chairman Steele will be in Chicago and we hope, after knowing that he'll be in the city, that he'll stop by and mingle with the Americans who will be rallying on April 15th. This will also present a fantastic time for Chairman Steele to LISTEN to what we have to say and perhaps gather some thoughts on what the RNC needs to be doing moving forward.
With regards to stage time, we respectfully must inform Chairman Steel 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.
I do hope that Chairman Steele will join us as a regular American in protest of Government spending and extreme taxation.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Meanwhile, the man who inspired the tea parties -- CNBC's Rick Santelli -- doesn't want anything to do with them.