March 2nd, 2009
01:23 PM ET
6 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. sallyo

    and the fight is on!!! rush and his RIGHT REPUBLIANS and micheal and his MODERATE REPUBLICANS. this ought to be fun to watch!!!!

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. Charles

    I guess now we will see if Steele is actually the leader of the party. I wonder how many congressional leaders will be on his side.

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. David Newport, OR

    If they have the answers to all of America's problems, why don't they run for public office and work toward getting these "answers" implemented? Talk is cheap. And unfortunately, the GOP base is all about lip flapping.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Mathew

    Mr. Steele, you are temporary mask of GOP to tell Americans that GOP is not a party of just white southen males. You are noot the real face of GOP. You can say thaat you are the leader of GOP but we ll see you will go back to Limbaugh in couple of days and apologise to him.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  5. Ryan Indianapolis

    When the whole Democratic Party wished Failure for GW Bush and his policies and him personally it was not a big deal. But when Limbaugh says he wishes Obama to fail if he is going to lead the country with these disturbing policies the media comes down hard on him????? That is one of the biggest double standards I have ever seen. I mean Harry Reid declared the Surge was a failure before it was even implemented and said the war was LOST?????But yet he is still in power. Nancy Zanax Pelosi fought GW every step on everything he tried to do and even made personal attacks but yet was never called out by the Left wing media.....The hypocrisy by the media and the Democratic party is Sickening and makes me ashamed to have these cowards citizens of this fine country. No wander Fox News cleans house when it comes to ratings compared to the rest of the networks. Im sure CNN is too big of cowards to show this entry.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  6. Mike in Philly

    I'd be interested to see how long it takes him to go on Rush's show and apologize, like that other Senator did ....

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. banderson

    Let Steele keep on believing that he is running something. He better watch his back because I have been reading some of the conservative blogs and those people are not very happy with the new look of the Republican party. Update your resume Mr. Steele.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  8. candidgyal

    Well, Mr. Steele, after making those 'accurate' remarks about Limbaugh's 'ugly' comments, I sense that you will be out of a job. Don't bite the hand that feeds you – and it is clear that Mr. Rush runs the GOP. So, while I agree with you Mr. Steele, your days as the RNC Chair are numbered. Good Luck!

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  9. Alex

    Steele leads the party in name only. In the minds of his constituency, the leaders are the ones who speak loudest.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  10. Aaron

    Limbaugh is doing all he can to help the Democrats. I love it.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. hope

    Why do you continuously take things out of context.

    Rush Limbaugh did not say he wants Obama to fail. Why don't you show Hannity's interview with Limbaugh when he explained what he said about the President's policies.
    History shows that no country has ever spent it's way out of debt.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  12. JL

    When you need to speak about why your relevant...
    you've lost being relevant.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  13. Mathew

    Mr. Steele, you are temporary mask of GOP to tell Americans that GOP is not a party of just white southen males. You are noot the real face of GOP. You can say thaat you are the leader of GOP but we ll see you will go back to Limbaugh in couple of days and apologise to him.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  14. Rich in Austin

    Mr Limbaugh's statements reflected a most sophomoric analysis of the situation we are in as a country. If he is the intellectual spokesman for the Republican party, then the Republicans are facing the same fate as they did in the mid-term elections of Roosevelt's first term – relegated to an insignificant element of the national political landscape. This is the card Obama is playing. He knows what a lightweight Limbaugh is. When he rarely strays from his bantering and offers up the semblance of an idea it is nothing more than a repeat of the failed policies of the past. If someone of stature doesn't succeed in taking the stage from him you Republicans are doomed. Obama is just waiting for the moment when Limabugh puts his foot in all of your collective mouths to a point that you will loose all credibility.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  15. Dave in Nevada

    Sure thing Chairman Steele. You just keep on believing you're the man. Tell me though, why do mis-spoken republicans always apologize to Rush.

    March 2, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. JC

    NOTHING UGLY ABOUT WANTING A SOCIALIST TO FAIL!!!

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. saad

    The Republicans have used hate for the last 8 years to control the US, it is time for a change, in the Republican party and the US.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  18. Kevin

    When Rush Limbaugh finally expires, his tomb stone should read, simply; "I B..ched". Period. That's It. That is the sum of his contributions to this nation. He b..ches. He's never once taken any risks, or made any sacrifices for this country. Never once attempted to gain political office so that he could implement (and subsequently be held accountable for) any of the sick ideology he espouses. This draft dodging (tough guy), Junkie, simply sits behind his mic and spews his drug induced rants across America's airwaves. Rush Limbaugh has been a disservice to this country and should be remember as such.. if at all.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. Mathew

    Mr. Steele, you are temporary mask of GOP to tell Americans that GOP is not a party of just white southen males. You are noot the real face of GOP. You can say thaat you are the leader of GOP but we ll see you will go back to Limbaugh in couple of days and apologise to him.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. Bob LaRocca

    The President's policy is destructive of personal liberty and destroys the Free Enterprise system anyone who want's that to be sucessful, has lost their mind.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. akpg24

    What is scariest out of all this is that there is in fact people who listen to Rush Limbaugh. He is like a clown doing acts for all the hillbillies across America. Him and Sarah Palin would make a great tandem.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  22. Alex

    Steele like that silly congresswoman said don't be da man . These people are acting like a bunch of rabid dogs. Limbaugh is the de facto leader and his underlings are coulter\hannity\ingrahm and the rest of those conservative hate mongers need to get some valium.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. Sean

    Mr. Limbaugh has been importuning his followers to "take back the country." They "had" the country for eight years. Now just look at this mess.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. 55STLMO

    There is a fine line between entertainment and politics, so how about Governor Rush Limbaugh, Senator Rush Limbaugh, President Rush Limbaugh. Why not? He keeps screaming that same old Republican rant about taxes are bad, government is bad, blah, blah, but notice government isn't bad when Republicans are in it. He is a hate-monger, he is the de-facto leader of the Republican party, and he would love it if the "people" would draft him to run for a political job. Wow, can't wait for that – Mr. Hate-Filled Rush Limbaugh, our next President! Just what America needs! Keep at it, folks, and you will get what you ask for.

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Frank, Las Vegas

    The GOP may claim quietly that Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter/Hanity are not leaders, but when they say something against them, they hurry up and say I'm sorry on-air with Rush. They don't want to cross him, so by being gutless they agree with him. I hope that Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter remain the voice of the GOP. With these idiots in charge of the GOP, the GOP will soon completely vanish from the political landscape and that's Good News for America. So everyone support Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter/Hanity as heads of the GOP!

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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