Tyson’s implicit endorsement of Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele for U.S. Senate stems from his former marriage to Steele’s half-sister, Monica Turner. During the Youngstown, Ohio, press conference, where he will fight later this week, Tyson pointed to his shirt and said, “We have to open our eyes more.”
After the press conference, Tyson told The Washington Post, “I would do anything to help Michael. I would box an exhibition for him. I would even fight again to help Mike. I would do anything.”
In a March 2006 New York Times interview, Steele said that he would welcome Tyson’s help in the campaign. “He may be divorced from my sister, but I can’t cast him aside,” said Steele at the time.
Steele’s spokesman, however, denied any connection between Tyson and the campaign in an e-mail to the Associated Press.
Tyson’s actions came on the same day that his former promoter, Don King, campaigned for Steele in black communities across Maryland.
The presence of both King and Tyson in the Steele campaign is unusual mostly because of their checkered pasts.
King was convicted of second-degree murder in the 1960s and was sued by Tyson and Muhammad Ali for allegedly bilking money from the boxers. Tyson has had a tumultuous career, including serving prison time for rape and biting off the ear of opponent Evander Holyfield in the ring in 1997.
King’s appearances in Prince George’s County, the most affluent black community in the country, highlight the county’s position as the key battleground for the open Senate seat. Both Steele and his Democratic opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin, are courting Maryland’s black voters whose support will be critical on Election Day.
Earlier in the campaign, Steele received the endorsement of Russell Simmons, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, in Prince George’s County.
For his part, Cardin has made numerous appearances in the county alongside Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Congressional Black Caucus members, Maryland Democratic Reps. Albert Wynn and Elijah Cummings.
Tyson’s comments about Steele came on the same day that House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, also from Maryland, had to apologize for comments considered “insensitive and pretty stupid.”
While introducing Cardin to a group of black businessmen in Prince George’s County, Hoyer said that Steele has had “a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party.”
In a meeting before the Maryland Chamber of Commerce in Ocean City, Md., Steele ridiculed the comments as “the height of arrogance.”
Hoyer later apologized for the comment, saying that he “shouldn’t have used those words.”