WASHINGTON — North Carolina Republican Party Chairman Tom Fetzer on Thursday became the first state party leader to call publicly for the resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, saying the party has set "a poor example of the kind of leadership voters can expect if Republicans are elected."
Steele has been under fire from many Republicans over recent RNC spending, including a $1,900 tab at a West Hollywood, Calif., nightclub that features topless dancers simulating bondage and lesbian sex.
"Recent events, regardless of who is to blame, have made it difficult if not impossible for you to lead the party in the direction that it needs to go," Fetzer wrote Steele. " . . . The best service you can render to your party at this critical juncture is to graciously step aside and allow the party to move on from this current quagmire."
Steele's top aide at the RNC resigned under pressure Monday. Steele, however, has no plans to leave.
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"Chairman Steele has maintained broad support from RNC committee members, who have been pleased with the proactive measures put in place for greater accountability," party spokesman LeRoy Coleman said. "Most importantly, the RNC remains focused on raising money and winning elections in North Carolina and across the country this fall."
Fetzer's letter comes as other prominent Republicans have raised questions about Steele's leadership.
Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who was behind the infamous "white hands" ad that the late Sen. Jesse Helms used against former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt in the 1990 Senate race, suggested Tuesday that it would be best for Steele to resign. Tony Perkins, the head of the Family Research Council, recently told conservative activists not to donate money to the RNC.
Fetzer said he’d decided it was time for Steele to leave after a conference call Wednesday between Steele and state party leaders. He said Steele didn't do enough to address recent controversies.
"I thought he didn't understand the magnitude of the problems that recent events have created within the grass-roots space of the Republican Party," Fetzer said in an interview.
Fetzer said he considered Steele a friend and that until a few days ago, he supported Steele, who became the party chairman on a close vote early last year. Fetzer introduced Steele at a news conference a few weeks ago to launch a new RNC ad campaign.
Fetzer said that some of Steele's recent statements had disturbed him, however.
ABC News asked Steele whether he thought as an African-American he had "a slimmer margin for error."
"The honest answer is yes," he replied.
"I personally don't agree with that and thought it was an inappropriate and incorrect thing of him to say," Fetzer said.
Fetzer said Republican volunteers and activists "are very shaken" by the national party woes.
(Morrill who reports for The Charlotte Observer, reported from Charlotte, N.C.)
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