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. About time

    I have to say that listening to Rush at CPAC was extremly refreshing. It is so nice to hear the truth once in a while and not all the politically correct garbage. Say it like it is Rush!!!! I like Steele, but I would rather have Newt/Rush/Hannity in charge of the GOP.

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

    Obama is using fear to push a hidden agenda? Are they serious? Did everybody get a total lobotomy for Christmas?

    I remember a long time ago, when times were different and men were men, a cowboy named George W. cherrypicked enough intelligence about Iraqi WMD's and yellowcake ore to make a certain country bomb the crap out of Iraq.

    But that was entirely justified... you see back then if you questioned the President you were "unpatriotic" or branded a traitor by the media. A multi-trillion dollar unjustified war is patriotism; universal health care, now THAT is communism!

    March 2, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  3. Jeff W.

    It's nice to hear a Republican actually admit that Rush is a vile pig. If I were a Republican I'd be very angry that this multiple-married, pill-popping, blowhard is trying to be the "voice" of the party. If anything he" just make people despise ultra-conservative ideology even more.

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  4. jlm

    Listening and Believing in Rush is proof of just how stupid the average neocon really is .This guy is nothing more the fat entertainer with a bladder full of hot air.

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  5. Bubba

    If Steele doesn't watch his mouth, Rush will kick him out of the party.

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. Dewey

    This just shows the rift in the Republican party. The fanatical conservatives, religious righters and Limbaugh followers are going to continue to drag the more reasonable elements down with them. Any confrontation of words/ideology between Rush and Obama is going to turn out poorly for the Rush side. An argument between a thoughtful University Professor and a raving blowhard – who comes out of that looking bad?
    Oh, and the Democrats "know they lose an argument with the Republican Party on substance"? What??? The only substance we've heard since January 20th has come from Obama. All the Republicans have done is criticise without offering valid alternatives. Come to think of it, they've spent the last 10 years or more creating wedge issues to distract from the real arguments. Is that because they have so much substance?

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. John doe

    Steele should know better before standing up to lead a party in denial due some bad habit that haven't yet ready leave behind.
    – Cut taxes while the defit is growing but at the same time Cry out loud about the future of THEIR kids.( How in the world can you reduce the debt but less income)
    – Cry big government while fighting a dumb war in Irak with taxpayers money
    – Cry earmarks while 40% of the same earmarks is coming from you.
    Hypocrisy at it's best.

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  8. CLB, Atlantic, VA

    Steele & GOP politicians need to do FAR more than that. There are millions of voters that moved from GOP to Independents, and then to Obama because of inaccurate and hate laced comments by extremists in the far-right. They either become a true Republican Party & have a chance to win again....or they move further to the extremist right & lose by a bigger margin. The worst things that hapened to the GOP are...Limbaugh, Coulter, Delay, Rove, & Cheney. They are not true Republicans....just the American form of extremist jihadists.

    March 2, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  9. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    How long before he has to apologize to Rush and clarify his remarks where he was critical of him? Not long I bet.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  10. CAL

    LMAO. Those idiots in the republician party and fat mouth limbaugh don't know who is leading. They are so negative that it's to the point that who ever is spurring off their big FAT mouth is the leader at that moment. These losers need to shut up, they are pathetic.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. daniels

    Had it's comment is another example of paranoid conspiracy theories ("republican puppet") that I expect to come from the Democrats. I noticed that the DOW dropped another 200 points today. Thanks to the paranoid, delusional Democrats that are running the White House and the Congress who think that spendng trillions of dollars to fight global warming is going to make our economy stronger.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. Susan in NC

    OMGosh! I'm laughing - you can't make this stuff up! What a hoot!

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  13. Carol Heinick

    Lets, not RUSH to jugdement here. Every once in a while I listen to him on the radio on my way home from work. One of these days I'll get a speeding ticket and send it to him so he can bail me ot.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. kenny

    Rush L. is full of hate, yes he is an entertainer but he is not a resposible one the garbage he spews is reprehensible and the people that listen to him dailey and agree with are a bunch of losers as well, can someone explain to me how anyone could constantly listen to his garbage.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  15. Kiddo

    Rush is not an entertainer.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. K

    Rush did not name himself the de facto leader of the GOP. CNN did! CNN is trying to put the spin on this story– Rush simply gave a talk. Shame on CNN for trying to make this a bigger issue.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Does the Rushpublican Party have a Boehner over Limbaugh

    Was this statement made before or after the bootlicking and confessing session?

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Chill out

    Steele will find out that he isn't leading anything they are just using him. They only like their own kind.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Matt

    Thank goodness that Rush, Steele and the whole Republican Party are irrelevant in this country now!! I thank God everyday they no longer have power – and can't ruin this country any more than they already have!

    Now we (as voters) just need to make sure they STAY OUT – for good!!

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |

    Do you have any proof of that Had It?

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  21. WI Cheesehead

    What is so strange about being honest? Nothing is strange about being honest and nothing is strange about your “double standards” Rush Limbaugh because it is Bush who ushered in the new “big government” and used fear to front his big spending by scaring Americans with some dubious allegation with code word “war on terror” that has no SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-Oriented, and Time Bound goals). Have you forgotten the moving goal posts on Iraq war Limbaugh?.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. BRENDA


    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  23. connie sturgeon

    Had it , You said it all ,Steele needs to realize he is the token black for the repubs.Steele equals black votes , Palin equals women votes and Limbaugh and Colter equal crazy votes.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  24. ls

    Will he end up apologizing to the "shock jock" too?
    Most people are beginning to see the Republican party needs strong leadership from anyone who can match the Democratic Party with intelligent solutions and a willingness to work together for the best interests of our country. It should not be, right, wrong or right, left; it should be everyone's best effort to solve our problems. No, to Party politics – yes to solutions!

    Thank you – St. Louis – LS

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. J S Ragman

    Michael Steele may or may not be the real leader of the Republican party but at least he has the cajones to come out and stand up the the biggest wind-bag in all of radio. If the Republicans want to continue to listen to a thrice-divorced, college drop-out junkie (Limbaugh), so be it. Between he and Ann Coulter the demise of the Repub party will continue until it disappears. Just remember, this is the party that started Hate Radio and gave Fox News a reason to live. That says it all.

    March 2, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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