It’s come to this.

On September 15, after the Senate voted to defund the community organizing group, Steele released a statement accusing ACORN of “nefarious activities,” saying it uses “illegal means to achieve its ends.” A few days later, on September 24, Steele called for congressional Democrats to investigate the “corrupt organization” and said damage control efforts by ACORN officials were “insulting.”

But during a speaking appearance in the days between issuing those two statements, Steele had kind words for ACORN and its CEO, Bertha Wilson, who happened to be guiding that so-called damage control.

Appearing September 21 at Philander Smith College, a historically black college in Arkansas, the RNC chairman spoke diplomatically of the group and its history of organizing in low-income communities.

“The organization has a problem that it needs to deal with,” Steele told the audience in remarks that were recorded and posted on YouTube over the weekend. “I will say that current head of the organization, she has done a phenomenal job of getting out in front of it. I applaud her. I take her at her word that she wants to make sure that the bad apples are thrown out.”

She did a phenomenal job getting out in front of it by … lying about the offices that turned O’Keefe and Giles away and then calling them racists during her media tour? And those bad apples — how exactly are they going to get thrown out when the internal audit committee is stacked with political cronies? I don’t know how to explain this except to note that Steele’s conscientious about improving minority outreach by the GOP (and rightly so) and maybe figured a full-scale assault on ACORN at a historically black college isn’t the smartest way to do that. But even so, it’s one thing to soft-pedal your criticism — e.g., “I’m sure there are plenty of fine, well-meaning people there” — and another to, um, lie. What happened?

Update: Hey, remember when ACORN founder Wade Rathke was forced out for failing to tell ACORN’s board of directors that his brother embezzled a million dollars? Well, funny thing:

An internal review by the board of directors of the community organization ACORN determined that the amount allegedly embezzled from the community organization was $5 million, well more than the previously reported amount of nearly $1 million, according to a new subpoena in an investigation by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

The subpoena, released this afternoon, says, “It is still unclear if some of the monies embezzled are from state, federal or private funds.”…

“Current high ranking members of ACORN have publicly acknowledged that embezzlement did in fact occur, but the exact amount of the embezzlement was unknown until it was recently acknowledged in a board of directors meeting on Oct. 17, 2008, by Bertha Lewis and Liz Wolf that an internal review had determined that the amount embezzled was $5 million,” the new subpoena says.

“Completely false,” says new ACORN chief Bertha Lewis. Care to comment, Michael Steele?