At a Tuesday night healthcare forum at Howard University, RNC chairman Michael Steele slammed a 23-year-old audience member, whose mother recently passed away from cancer, without qualm.
The auditorium was filled with about 150 students, the first two rows reserved for two dozen white members of a local young Republicans club. Steele’s appearance was part of his outreach program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in an effort to connect with young black college students.
In the discussion the chairman would only take questions that were submitted in writing as he spoke. He spoke about his fledgling party and even used a slang term when a student told Steele she was pursuing business law, “Business law! Mo Money!”
In reference to a written question regarding the proposed health care legislation, he slammed the public option saying “every time the government get involved in something it doesn’t work.”
What seemed to be a boring monologue complete with students texting and fighting sleep quickly turned explosive when 23-year-old Amanda Duzak interrupted Steele’s health care rant.
“My mother died of cancer 6 months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications,” she projected. “There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care. Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care.”
The room erupted into applause as Steele paced the room, obviously affected by either being interrupted or lack of immediate response. He then went on to say that he would engage in honest, mature discussion and said he refused to participate in a shouting match.
“People are coming to these town meetings and they’re like [he then shakes].” He then looked and gestured right at Ms. Duzak and said, “It makes for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.” He snapped then turned his back to her.
Damian Smith, a after school counselor and Prince George’s County resident, also weighed in about how his aunt is losing her home because of her medical bills. Other people started shout out as well.
But Steele was worse than non-responsive. He was dismissive and profoundly disrespectful. As Smith said to me afterward, “I couldn’t believe he acted that way toward her… toward all of us. He was just mean.”