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

GOP chairman says he leads party, not Rush Limbaugh

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" 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. keith A. sillsbury

    just shows how the republican party is ending, confused, non -focused, and with drug addicts and fakes atempting to show the way. I feel sorry for them but the end is near.

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  2. RZA

    How long will it be before Steele's forced to apologize to Limpbagh?

    Also, if no one is following you, then you're not the leader, Mr. Steele.

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  3. Angie in Pa

    Limbaugh Leads the Party Steele is Being used for His Color! What a Mess that Pathetic party is I LOVE IT!!

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  4. Geoffrey McConnico

    Yeah, sure. Rush Limbaugh is to "just an entertainer" as Hitler is to "just a paper-hanger".

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  5. no corporate politics

    If you have to issue a statement saying you are in charge – get a clue – you are not in charge.

    What is the big flap about "wanting someone / some-party to fail"?

    The DNC loved to see Bush failing and thrashing around because of his bad decisions.

    The RNC loves to see Obama do the same.

    DNC – RNC – same politics. Yet another example.

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  6. Andrea

    Why are so many republicans trying to disavow Rush? He tells it like it is. If they want to be PC, they should cross the aisle.

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Good Luck with That

    Steele is seriously deluded if he thinks the right-wing, conservative GOP faction that draw sustenance from the "Southern Strategy" considers him the GOP "true" leader. Rush Limbaugh and the Imus faction will always view Steele as an uppity one, who right now serves a purpose. The same can be said of Jindal. Wait about a month or so when the GOP realizes it needs to bring in its heavy-hitters to rally-the-troops. Jindal and Steele will see how invaluable they are to the GOP...NOT !

    March 2, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Gary

    I would encourage the republicans to focus on cutting spending, cutting earmarks and balancing the budget. We need to stop promising free things to people. We need to change the culture in this country to one inwhich everyone needs to work and no one gets money, healthcare, anytyhing for free. Once the budget is balanced, then we can talk about taxes. The idea that Obama wants to raise taxes during a recession (even if it on the rich people) is fundamentally bad economics. Are there any grounds to impeach Obama? He is borrowing soooo much money, he'll destroy our economy in the long-run.

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Martha

    Absolutely! Limbaugh is not a politician and the Republican Party has a leader – Steele! The Democrats need to stop giving Limbaugh so much power. He is a only a radio guy and has done nothing to earn the power that is being given to him by both parties.

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  10. Video Guy

    Mr Steele is only there for looks

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Mr Steele is hating on Limbaugh because Limbaugh renders him 'impotent'.

    I hate on Limbaugh becase he's an idiot-blowhard.....but that's just me 🙂 !

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  12. spudmctater

    I have some newfound respect for the national Republican Party, or at least Mr. Steele, when I hear him stand up to the idiots in his party. He understands that calling names and tearing people down is not going to win him elections.

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Susan

    Rush Limbaugh unabashedly heads the Republican Party! Millions of like-minded citizens see him as their leader, not Michael Steele. Talked to a "conservative" lately? They quote Limbaugh as if he wrote the Bible himself.

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    seriously, when bush left office, pelosi mentioned it being like a brick being lifted off her chest.. the democrats, spent far more time critizing bushes everymove, the surge in iraq, etc..... but as soon as a repub says something, ohh no it goes to far.. liberals and demcrats are both whiney, pathetic babies. vote anyone who voted for the stimulus package out. VOte anyone with an ear mark in the budget out. get some people who actually care. like ron paul.

    March 2, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  15. Rob Johnson

    Be careful, Michael, or Rush might get you fired.

    As distasteful as he may be, Limbaugh does have real power, and anybody who crosses him doesn't have much of a future in the GOP.

    Of course, as long as they listen to Rush, the GOP doesn't have much of a future, but that is another conversation.

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. 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 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. Dave

    How dare he suggest conservatives be conservative and that we not support a liberal agenda!

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Mark

    Great. Just keep it up. Next stop for republiclones – oblivion

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. still hoping

    I'm a republican. I think trickle down economics work only when the government keeps their hands out of it. (the banking crisis a case in point when clinton led fannie and freddie to create this crisis).
    That said I don't follow or really listen to Limbaugh, but believe the current administration is on the wrong track. Obama is leading us straight to dependency and to ruin and will make this old quote true. So all of you that think it's great that he is having the government bail out everything, think again.

    "A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.
    The average age of the world's great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage."
    – Alexander Tyler

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Valerie

    and you don't think a lot of Liberal Commentators comments aren't ugly? i am sure Liberals were hoping Bush would fail through his 8 years. so why is a Republican hoping that Obama's socialist agenda fails, being attacked? as you can tell, this is the Biased media, and those ducks that follow them, and believe everything that is said. again people, read what Rush Limbaugh said, not just what you want to hear.

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. pkwilk

    Limbaugh has not said anything that is not true. Media just loves to take it out of context for inflammatory purposes and shock effect.

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  22. hyaenidae

    It's amusing that Limbaugh, with no sense of irony whatsoever, accuses Obama and the Democrats of "using fear". I've got a Bogart analogy for him: there's a scene in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" where the trip leader accuses Bogart's character of plotting to scam the party and make off with all the treasure, to which Bogart replies, "only a true thief would think like that of one of his men."

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  23. Brandon

    Yeah hate to break it to Mike, but I don't think most republicans even relate to him. Just like with Bobby Jindal, they want to get some faces with pigment up in front of the camera to make it look like they are somehow diverse now. The word "token" mean anything to you?

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  24. joeb

    Mr Steele is right. Limp Rushbaugh is an entertainer; nothing more, nothing less!

    March 2, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  25. LA WOMAN


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