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. Anonymous

    Cantor is hilarious looking and Steele is right. If Republicans want to get back in the game they have to stop being divisive. That was the message of their party convention and look what happened after that, they tanked. The party is in the hole for this reason yet Rush continues to dig.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Roberto

    Hey Steele, if you really want to be taken seriously then don't make some mealy mouthed comment reagarding the de facto head of the GOP. Call Limbaugh what he is: A polarizing racist who hates America. Tell your fellow Republicans that any who follow the Limbaugh-Hannity-Coulter hate doctrine have no place in the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  3. LOS ANGELES

    RUSH LIMBAUGH IS THE TERMINATOR OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY. THE MORTICIAN, THE GRAVE DIGGER AND THE PRIEST. AS I WALK THROUGH THE SHADOW OF DEATH….
    HA HA HA HA HA HA!! HEY LIMBAUGH, CALL NUTRA SYSTEM, THEY ARE HAVING A SALE, YOU NEED TO DISINLATE YOUR HEAD!

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  4. Johnny

    I like this guy. I guess he does lead the party. Not a bad guy to lead the party though. Better than what the dems have with Pelosi. (shudders)

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  5. Oh sure

    Limbaugh will say whatever it takes to keep him in the spotlight. He doesn't care what happens to anyone else. He doesn't care if *any* president, Republican or Democrat, fails, as long as he is in the news. He's making money hand over fist while contributing *nothing* in the way of solutions for the problems this country faces.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  6. Casey | Sebastopol, CA

    How like Republicans – talking out of both ends of their.... hmmm. I wonder which end Rush is?

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  7. Glen in Los Angeles

    And while we're at it....where were Rush's promulgations of "RACIAL! RACIAL!" when the selection of Steele (how many other blacks were attendance at CPAC?) was such an obvious move to get a man of color to go up against Obama.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  8. oust_rethugs

    how long before apologizing to limbaugh? Mr. Token Steele?

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  9. Ben, Nashville, TN

    Good effort by Steele to distance himself from Limbaugh and to position himself as head of the party. If Limbaugh had his way, Chip Saltsman would be the RNC chair.

    Nevertheless, Rush Limbaugh is leading the "I want our country to fail" agenda. Republicans at CPAC pretty clearly got revved up by Limbaugh's rhetoric and Steele is responsible for what CPAC does. If it's "ugly", then why did Steele allow Limbaugh to "entertain" the whole CPAC group in a keynote address?

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  10. Nacho Cheese

    Audrey:

    It's obvious that you've been listening to too much Rush yourself. What, are you going to start spewing "socialist!!" like it's a new concept and like it relates to our current president?

    Give me a break and turn off your radio. Trust me, you'll be better for it.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. AEK

    Hahahahahahaha, oh my sides! Hahahahaha, stop! Hahahahahaha, no really, stop! Michael Steele may have a lot of qualities but he is not a big enough hater to lead the Republican party. Best leave that job to the professionals, Rush (Where's that prescription pad?) Lamebrain, Billo the Clown and of course Chubby McRoverton.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. S Ballard

    Limbaugh, incendiary? There is no better way to put it. Limbaugh is so divisive, so empowered by opposing different points of view and opinions, that there is no way the right and left can begin to agree or even meet half way. He preaches to the voters and politicians need their votes. He's a cancer in the heart Republican philosophy.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  13. Michele Bachmann "We're running out of rich people!"

    i

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  14. GOP = ECHHH!

    So then, that said by Steele, when can we expect him to beg Limbaugh's forgiveness and will the toadying be made public?

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  15. LOL

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

    You mean the same way Obama has been a puppet for Pelosi and Reid?

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. A Voice

    Short and to the point – Michelle Obama said that for the 1st time in her adult life, she's proud of her country. Her patriotism is then questioned for weeks. Rush Limbaugh says that he "hopes" that the President of the United States of America fails and no one questions his patriotism. The media just says, "oh, that's just Rush." His comments are, indeed, very unpatriotic. The president IS the global representative of the U.S. whether you voted for him or not. For someone to say that they hope Pres. Obama fails goes beyond unpatriotic. It invites other misguided people to engage in acts that lead towards this failure; all because they feel they have someone who shares their sentiments and is not publicly scrutinized after expressing his nonsensical views to a global audience. I don't see an equality sign in this equation.

    March 2, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. APB

    I wonder how long it will take Steele to "clarify" his remarks and claim that he never intended to impugn his good friend Rush.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  18. Richard Petershaggen

    Rush is the one who's delusional, not Steele. I don't know any Republicans who even listen to Rush anymore. The guy has gone off the deep end.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  19. nolapearl

    I am amazed that Alex Conant would actually think anyone would believe what he said. I was a Republican for 35 years until Newt Gingrich and George W Bush came to power. There was an election and these Republicans lost. They had 8 years to talk about reform and making the world a better place. They didn't. And a new administration is trying to clean up their mess. While I don't agree with how much money is being spent and that earmarks have no place in this, it's still better than letting the Republicans control anything. They are living in the past and the world has changed all around them.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  20. Kiku

    If Steele is the leader, why was Limbaugh given the best convention spot at CPAC?

    The real Republican party is represented by Limbaugh. Steele is just the lipstick, chosen to put spin new clothes for the emperor.

    We see through it. Republicans need to start working for the American people. We see through the hip hop clothes.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  21. peggyledbetter

    What is Michael Steele real purpose? The GOP is finished and he is a waste of our time.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. Ben, Nashville, TN

    Audrey (or anyone) – name one "pork project" in the stimulus package.

    Go ahead. Name one.

    March 2, 2009 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  23. Da Professor

    Steele has it almost right. Rush Limbaugh and Ann coulter are the ugly commentary, right-wing extremists with pea size brains who just don't get it.

    The American public is sick and tired of the "values" of the Bush – Cheney era. Remember what we all felt was going to be the new Values of the Republican Party back about 8 long years ago? And do you remember what we got. Blantant lies, arrogance, hypocrisy, and plain stupidity.

    We've left the right-wing behind and America has moved on, for the better I think. And that is from a registered Republican .... Me!

    March 2, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  24. Margaret from Seattle

    The disgrace is Limbaugh's alone...

    March 2, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  25. David

    Ha ha ha! So, another case of Snowball (Steele) about to be chased off the farm by Napoleon (Limbaugh). Funny how it doesn't matter what the political persuasion, left or right. Stupid rough and tough people will always belittle, berate, and eventually force out the smart people – ever wonder why crap rises to the top? Limbaugh's on top because he is Napoleon. Just wait until he starts spreading the "dirt" about Steele. It'll start with "I like the guy, BUT. . . " then it will move to the insidious "I can't believe this guy thinks/says. . . . ." and eventually Rush will call for Steele to be removed (at first, with some caution). Just wait. Dumb rough people only rule for so long. . . .

    March 2, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
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