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. CharlieOrlando

    Michael Steele completely nailed it when he said that Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. As a result, my stock in Michael Steele has gone up big time! Thank you, Mr. Steele, for being one of the very few conservatives who realizes (and has the guts to say) that the rhetorical emperor of the extreme right isn't only naked, he's a naked political performing clown to boot. You're a brave man, Mr. Steele. Very brave indeed.

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  2. JoeG

    Throw Steele out. He is just like the traitors, Bob Dole and Alan Specter and even George Bush. You go Rush!

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. fprawl

    I hope the Cap and Trade Tax on Global warming does fail. Read Ponder the Maunder. Global Taxation is more accurate.

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  4. Brina

    Steele....you are NOT the leader....

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. Alan

    Rush is a conservative. Isn't it funny that everyone can disagree except when it comes to conservitives and Christians.

    Steele had better watch it or he will be one of the UNemployeed!!

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Delivethegoods

    Rush is just helping those of us who are frustrated by all the spending by our loyal democratic friends who are loading pork on the stimulus package for their own states. Before we commend all the bank presidents, CEO's and such, how about a new office or cabinet post to demote senators and congressmen and congresswomen who have sent our ecomony in a downward spirl, namely Frank and Dodd. Where is their accountibilty? How dumb does the government holier than thous think we are? I think you will shortly see a trend to demanding accountibilty from the government sector.

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  7. Emanuel Goldstein

    Big Business leads the Republican Party. period. Rush Limbaugh leads in highest concentration of Oxycontin and Viagra in one mans blood stream.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. gl, Pittsburgh

    He is just another republicans puppet and black token. They will never vote him for President. They are using him like they used Sara Palin and Jindal. The Republicans are the party for whites old men only that spear hate at their meetings. Yes, we all know Limbaugh is their leading racist dog!

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  9. Jake Benson

    Taking bets on the ETA for a public apology.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. Louisiana

    RE: Had it!!

    Do you even know how to read, if so you would find in the stimulas bill tax cuts for 95% of Americans and more suppoert for small business than BUSH ever put forward. Man start thinking for yourself, your an American you know...you can do that.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  11. Patrick Era

    As far as am concerned, Rush is the GOP leader, NOT Michael Steele the "NEW ECONOMIST" who sees the difference betweeen "work" and "job" – What a joke the GOP has completely become!

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  12. Larry Ventimiglio

    Rush Limbaugh, and several other conservative "entertainers" who promote themselves as conservative commentators, have done the Republican party great disservice in promoting hatred, bigrotry, and devisiveness. Mr. Limbaugh loves to work up a crowd of white supremicists, much like Adolph Hitler loved to work up a crowd during his reign of terror.

    While Hitler was truly a terrorist, Mr. Limbaugh is merely an opportunist, cashing in for all he can.

    I congratulate Mr. Steele on his remarks, and his attempt to clearly distance the Republican Party from Mr. Limbaugh's twisted perspective.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  13. Laurie Simpson

    Rush Limbaugh is an absolute ignominy to the Unites States of America. Man...keep your unfounded opinions to yourself and quit acting like you have any real voice in American politics.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  14. George

    Well if Mr. Steele leads the Republican party it's time he leads. People
    like Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity and Joe the Plunger are making the republican party a joke. And Mr. leader when will the tears stop falling? America has spoken, but your co-leader Limbaugh wishes America fails to get even with Obama. I can't believe people are stupid enough to listen to sewage mouth day after day. Rush the American
    that makes fun of and imitates a crippled person. What a wacko!
    You republicans better start thinking for yourself.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  15. Steve

    Actually, Rush is dead on and Steel is an idiot. Not sure how this guy was chosen to be the head of the RNC other than the fact that the Republicans wanted a black man there who could take on Obama and his Socialist party w/o being called a racist.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  16. Jake Benson

    Taking bets on the ETA for a public apology.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  17. John M in CA

    This is going to be entertaining.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  18. Joe in Austin

    Rush is a hater and Steele is a token. "Working on reform"? Weren't they in power until just recently - what do they intend to reform, themselves?

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  19. MBFLA

    Rahm got it right. A paid loud mouth drug addict is the intellect of the Republican Party. It goes down hill from there.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  20. jimtranr in Oregon

    There _is_ no leader of the Republican Party. And the party won't remain even the shadow of a viable entity until and unless it adjusts its fossilized just-say-no ideology to the complex realities of the 21st century and begins to advocate ideas and policies that can compete constructively with what a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress offer the country. Throwing rocks at the President, the House Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader aren't anywhere near enough to get the job done–and that's all the "party" and its vocal adherents like Rush and Company are doing right now.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. MICK in MESA

    @Audrey...
    Limbo lover, right? Must be one of those mouth breathers that follow his every hate filled word flatulation.
    Does anybody else see the resemblence between Limbo and Hitler in the 30's or is it just my knee-jerk reaction to neo-nazi white supremist conservatives coming into play?

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  22. me

    Saw the interview. I think of him less as an uncle to me now. He feels more like a delusional person who can't shake his undeveloped teenage ideas about what the repubs stand for. They are using him, he can't possibly ignore that.

    But he is wrong: Rush and Dan Coulter run the party (into the ground). They are what the repubs stand for, end of story. If they did not run things, conservatives would have put them in their place. Everyone notice how Moveon.org turned off even deep-seated liberals.

    You don't have to condone the actions simply because you support the ideals.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  23. Send him to fat camp

    I'm glad to hear the GOP is getting fired up from an admitted pill pop'n junkie. The GOP has nothing to worry about now.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  24. Ray Fisher

    The Republican party must split every 100 years for some reason, this time it's the Dittoheads rather than the BullMoosers but spit they must. It is an indication of the disorganization and disunity of these conservatives because if they can't have their way on every issue, they bolt!!! No wonder they are the Civil War Party causing splits constantly.

    March 2, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  25. Axl in Iowa

    If I say "I hope Obama fails", Can I be the GOP leader? Please. Pretty Please. Oh please pick me. I could use the money.

    Noone needs to hope for it. If everyone considers what Bush did was a failure. Since what Obama is doing is NO DIFFERENT, except for more spending, he will fail as well, and on an even grander scale. Unless there's some double standard that I'm not aware of which means Obama can do the same things Bush did and be considered a success. Wouldn't surprise me a bit.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
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