A Washington Post article explores the financial support given to Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), an African American who is running for U.S. Senate, by Republicans who specialized in racist campaigning in the past – exemplified by the producer of the 1988 “Willie Horton” ad, who hosted a fundraiser for Steele last week. The Horton ad “came to symbolize the cynical use of skin color as a political wedge,” according to The Post. Steele has also received support from Alex Castellanos, who produced the 1990 “White Hands” ad for Sen. Jesse Helms (R-North Carolina); Sen. Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), who lost his Senate leadership post after pining in 2002 for the 1948 presidential campaign of segregationist Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South Carolina); and William Bennett, who recently speculated on his radio show that “you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” The GOP hopes Steele will pick up a significant portion of Maryland’s black electorate, which typically votes Democratic.
“I appreciate all the support I get from members of my party,” says Steele. The Post also quotes “[c]onservative black commentator” Armstrong Williams, who says, “These people have supported him. That’s his base. Let’s say someone is racist, or has been racist in the past. If they give money to a black candidate, wouldn’t that show progress on their part?” Williams, a former staff member to Sen. Thurmond, is most famous for taking payments from the Bush administration to promote the No Child Left Behind Act to his readers, viewers, and colleagues.