ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: RNC Chairman Michael Steele is doing damage control in the wake of a magazine interview where he appeared to voice support for abortion rights, in the latest setback for a party leader who may face an internal fight to keep his job.
In a wide-ranging interview with GQ, Steele called abortion an “individual choice,” in the context of his birth mother’s decision to choose to deliver him and put him up for adoption.
“I see the power of life in that -- I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it . . . Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth,” Steele said.
“The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other,” he said.
He was then asked if he thinks “women have the right to choose abortion?”
Steele: “Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.”
Question: “You do?”
Steele: “Yeah. Absolutely.”
With the interview getting wide attention in political circles, Steele issued a statement through the RNC this morning, declaring, “I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.”
He continued: “I tried to present why I am pro life while recognizing that my mother had a ‘choice’ before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did.”
“In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue. But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Steele said he does not believe homosexuality is a choice: “Oh, no. I don't think I've ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, I think that there's a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can't simply say, oh, like, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being gay.' It's like saying, 'Tomorrow morning I'm gonna stop being black.' ”
A growing chorus of Republicans have begun openly questioning Steele’s leadership, with some arguing that he’s spending too much time expounding on the GOP’s direction -- the former Maryland lieutenant governor has been a frequent television commentator -- and not enough time building the party’s infrastructure.
Political Wire’s Taegan Goddard reported Wednesday that Katon Dawson, the chairman of the South Carolina GOP, is organizing a no-confidence vote on Steele’s leadership, but Dawson is publicly denying that.
UPDATE: Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, weighed in on the subject in a written statement that's likely to fuel buzz that Steele is in a fight for his job:
"I read the article last night so I am familiar not only with his comments about the life issue but also about the efforts to redefine marriage and 'mucking' up the constitution. I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman's pledge.
"Before making further public statements regarding Mr. Steele's interview and what impact it may have upon social conservative support for the RNC I will give him an opportunity to respond to a message I've sent him regarding the matter."