March 2nd, 2009
01:23 PM ET
5 years ago

GOP chairman says he leads party, not Rush Limbaugh

 Steele says he is the leader of the GOP.
Steele says he is the leader of the GOP.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is taking issue with the notion that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP, calling the conservative radio talk show host an entertainer whose comments can be ugly.

Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, said in an interview with CNN that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

And Steele described Limbaugh as a performer.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment," Steele said. "Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

Last month, Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected chair of the RNC. He is the first African-American to lead the Republican Party. At the time of his election, Steele said that "Rush will say what Rush has to say; we'll do what we have to do."

Steele made his latest comments regarding Limbaugh on CNN's "D.L. Hughley Breaks the News," which aired this weekend. The Steele interview was taped before Limbaugh's appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual meeting of conservatives from across the nation.

Limbaugh brought a cheering crowd to its feet several times as he called on fellow conservatives to take back the country.

He used his self-described "first national address," which ran more than an hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes, to accuse President Barack Obama of inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of "big government."

Limbaugh also backed up comments he made earlier this year in which he said he hoped Obama fails.

"What is so strange about being honest and saying I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and re-form this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?"

But a top Republican in Congress disagreed.

"I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now," House Republican Whip Eric Cantor said on ABC's "This Week." "We have such challenges. What we need to do is we need to put forth solutions to the problems that real families are facing today."

RNC spokesman Alex Conant on Monday did not directly address Steele's comments about Limbaugh but pointed out the back and forth between the White House and the conservative radio host.

"Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats know they lose an argument with the Republican Party on substance so they are building straw men to attack and distract," he said. "The feud between radio host Rush and Rahm makes great political theater, but it is a sideshow to the important work going on in Washington.

"RNC Chairman Michael Steele and elected Republicans are focused on fighting for reform and winning elections. The Democrats' problem is that the American people are growing skeptical of the massive government spending being pushed by congressional leaders like [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi," Conant said.

A spokesman for Limbaugh said the radio host did not have an immediate response, but added he would likely address Steele's comments Monday on his nationally syndicated radio program.


Filed under: Rush Limbaugh
soundoff (1,100 Responses)
  1. Mary

    Oh, really? Six of one, half dozen of another – neither is proving themselves to be particularly capable.

    March 2, 2009 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Melissa

    Oh gee, the Repub's doing something intelligent, how surprising.

    The Reps need to shut Limbaugh up. He's doing alot of damage to them.

    On the other hand, no go right ahead and let him keep talking. It will make sure the Reps don't get voted in in the next election.

    March 2, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. Had It

    Talk about delusions – he may lead the party, but Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter lead him. He's another republican puppet.

    March 2, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. AJ

    Oh really Mr Steele? Well it looks to me as if they are trying to hide you away brotha man... Face it, you're just a TOKEN!!!

    Keep hope alive, peace and hair grease, and all that other jive talk that you're trying to inject into Republican life. Good luck with that.

    March 2, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  5. Jon in CA

    Hugo Chaves is leading US Democrats!!

    The US economy is failing and democrats want to point fingers at a radio talk-show host?? REALLY????

    Oh – and did you catch the $1 Billion being sent to Palestine?? Oh, sorry, back to bashing conservative talk show hosts!!!!

    March 2, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  6. Mike S., New Orleans

    Sorry Mr. Steele, but your party has been highjacked by a bunch of hate mongering racist radical right wing nuts like Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and Rove. That's why you lost so big, and that's why you'll keep losing.

    March 2, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Brian Crooks

    I wonder how long before Rush comes out and calls the guy an Affirmative Action Afro-Racist who isn't fit to lead the party. I figure it should be before the weekend...

    March 2, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  8. reagan fan forever

    How 'bout if we all start saying the dumbocrats are led by Howard Stern? Or Nancy Pelosi? Oh wait...

    March 2, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  9. the dude of truth

    Rush is a fool who spews hatred and stagnation and promotes an agenda that hopes are leader fails. What a disgrace to Americans

    March 2, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  10. Karen- PROUD OF MY PRESIDENT

    Michael Steele you are an absolute disgrace.. not to your race but to the fact that the GOP can let a person like Rush Limbaugh speak at the CPAC this past weekend. I felt like it was a Klan rally, all the spitting, grunting and the people chanting.. it was unreal. Michael if you are going to be in control of the GOP then do so but all the hatred is not necessary.

    March 2, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  11. Sean

    He says this now. Until Rush blasts him and forces him to crawl back on his knees and kiss the ring.

    March 2, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  12. LIP

    Steele hit the nail on the head...Steele is the man to go to.
    Meanwhile a great idea for solving the unemployment issue.
    Everyone without a job simply needs to find an illegal alien with a job and call the INS and then that person should be rewarded with that particular job. Within a couple of weeks, all the (20 million) illegal aliens will be gone and there will be "0" unemployment.

    March 2, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  13. Mike in Houston

    Steele is the RNC leader. Rush is right though. If you want Obama to succeed, then you are wishing that the US becomes a socialist state.

    March 2, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  14. Drew Williams

    Well, Steele definitely got the ugly part right when speaking of Limbaugh. My only questions now are how long will it take Steele to get on the phone and ask Limbaugh for his kind and generous forgiveness, and will that toadying be made public?

    March 2, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  15. pattyt

    Poor "Almo" (almost Obama but not really). Steele doesn't realize that he isn't the leader of the Republican Party whether "Oxycontin Rush" is in the picture or not. This is actually pretty funny in a pathetic kind of way. I want Rush and Sean to keep doing what they do – it makes the Repubs look like a bunch of limp noodles. And while I'm at it, wasn't the Jindal speech the most pathetic thing you ever saw/heard?

    March 2, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  16. Adrian Veidt

    Steele is a figurehead.

    Rush is the voice of the Republican party.

    March 2, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  17. ranganraj

    Sure, baby. Maybe the republican party should concentrate on having some real ideas and action plans and then worry about a leader? Right now, the whole "pull yourself (and your 401K) up by your bootstraps" thing has gotten old. You can trot out all your minority members (all 4 of them) a kid, and bloated tv talk show host...but you still have to have some ideas. Sorry.

    March 2, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Mary J.

    Steele you can;t compete with Rush. Your days out of the window, box or what you want to call it but you were never a leader.

    March 2, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  19. J.L.

    So... how long before Michael Steele is grovelling at the feet of Rush Limbaugh?

    Michael Steele grovels = Rush Limbaugh heads the GOP
    Michael Steele doesn't grovel = GOP may still have a chance in the future

    March 2, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  20. Tim

    If Mr. Steele thinks he is in charge, he is sadly mistaken. He is nothing more than a figure head with not real power. Just let him make Rush the idiot, drug addicted, hypocritical liar Limbaugh mad and see what happens. Rush, Hannity, Ann Culter will ensure the Republican parties reach extends no further than the base.

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  21. wow

    If you have to defend your position then you are not the leader. BTW, i wonder why educated people listen to an uneducated illiterate like Rush Limpbals

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  22. thomas

    No Mike., you're both leading, but in opposite directions, both leading into the sea.

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  23. katiec

    Well, think the difference is Limbaugh says what he thinks, while
    the republicans hide behind their lies, distortions and party first
    mentallity. Their actions have given no indication that they want
    our country to succeed. Their inability, which they fail to recognize,
    to come up with workable, acceptable, accountable, realistic
    alternatives, wanting to continue with policies that have brought
    our country to it's knees proves how out of touch they are.
    They have to start working towards the survival of our country
    and us. They have yet to do this.

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  24. Margi

    He crossed the Rush, he'll soon be gone.

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  25. Peter from BC

    Wow...the GOP is floundering. No one knows who is in charge and the "real" leader can't be as devisive as Rush and proclaim he wishes for failure, but they know if Obama doesn't fail, the GOP will have a much harder time winning in 2010 and in 2012. It is a catch 22 for the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
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