MSNBC anchor Lawrence O'Donnell profusely apologized last night for calling the Republican Party RNC Chairman Michael Steele's "master." O'Donnell had made the following statement before rolling a previously-recorded interview with Steele on Tuesday night:
As the first congressional election during his party chairmanship approaches, Michael Steele is dancing as fast as he can trying to charm independent voters and Tea Partiers while never losing sight of his real master and paycheck provider, the Republican National Committee.
On Wednesday night, O'Donnell made a passionate apology to Steele. "Those of us who are not descendants from slaves," O'Donnell said, "can never know the full impact of the word master in the ears of an African-American man." (Video and trasncript below the fold.)
I called him back immediately and apologized for using the word he found offensive. Those of us who are not descendants from slaves can never know the full impact of the word master in the ears of an African-American man. Michael Steele told me, "It sort of stung."
He could not have been more gracious and forgiving. He also told me, "the interview was a lot of fun, I loved our give and take, I will be back on the show." I invited him on the show tonight so I could apologize to him directly in front of everyone who had seen the interview. that wasn't necessary, and the apology on the phone was more than anyone else had done who slighted him in the past. A Republican publicly accused Steele of slavishly supporting the Republican party. Michael Steele is still waiting for a personal apology on that one. As to the rewrite, what I should have said is as the first congressional election during his party chairmanship approaches, Michael Steele is distancing as fast as he can trying to charm tea partiers while never forgetting his job title chairman of the Republican National Committee. That I chose a word that could be misinterpreted as a racial reference on the same night that I took to this pulpit to so righteously condemn the racist e-mails sent by new york billionaire and Republican candidate for governor, Carl Paladino is ironic. So too, that Michael Steele has yet to pass judgment on those same e-mails.
I completely understand and sympathize with the many ways in which a party chairman's public speech is constantly constrained. i think we all know what Michael Steele would like to say about his New York candidate's e-mails and I think we all understand why he hopes he's never asked about them. My public speech is not similarly constrained by political considerations. I am honored that Michael Steele believes me to be the kind of person he can call to explain his hurt and politely request and expect an apology. After apologizing to him on the phone, I told him I would apologize on this program, something he did not request. I also told him that I, too, thought the interview was a lot of fun, that I enjoyed our give and take. and that I would love to do it again whenever his schedule allows. Mr. Chairman, I sincerely apologize.
O'Donnell's apology was admirable and emotional. He should be applauded for his grace and humility in handling the situation. He may also have prevented his employer from making him the next Rick Sanchez.