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. Pauline Turk

    Limbaugh is a disgrace to our country and his irrational & inflammed comments remind me of another loose cannon from Germany in the 30's and 40's.

    March 2, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Alicia

    Rush Limbaugh is a performer and Michael Steele is the Republican Leador. CNN and Chris M. are in love with President Obama. The media will have fun with all Obama's spending. Two years from now you will think well President Bush was not the bad.

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

    Steele may be the "official" head of the Republican party but Rush is the driving force behind the real party activist. When the calls start flooding into Steele's office demanding he apologize for labeling Limbaugh's comments as ugly he is going to realize that he is the number 2 man in the GOP

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. debbie

    Divide and conquer – way to go "Rahmbo".

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  5. P Smith

    the American people are not growing skeptical of Obama's plans. At least his administration is putting forth plans – not a lot of talk. It's amazing that all of a sudden the Republicans want to get back to their core beliefs. That's fine, however, now is not the time to do this. Let's straighten the situation out that the country is facing. Stop running for office.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Da Professor

    Audrey my love, the right-wing extremists and good ole Rushy and Annie Coulter have you blinded by their ugly commentary. Obama has a fantastic brain of his own. Something Bushy never had.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. Stream Of Consciousness

    Oh and...where is this 'substance' that Alex Conant speaks of??

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. philip

    Limbaugh is an evil-spewing hack and hypocrite. Anyone who follows him (like those people who followed Hitler) will eventually get their just desserts.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  9. Cathy Brandes

    Michael Steele is spot on when talking about Rush Limbaugh. He is an "entertainer", if you call it that, who is always incendiary and always ugly.
    I suspect you have not taken the time to read the stimulus package. Are there some things that could have waited, perhaps, but the majority of the package,when given time to work, will do just that. Small business did receive tax cuts. I suggest you read the entire package and quit taking your information from the likes of Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  10. Travis

    If Regan were alive today, he'd be very angry.

    The Republican party used to have some dignity and respect. Now, its a shell of its former self. With "leaders" like Jindal and Palin, the future of the GOP is bleak, very bleak. Rush Limbaugh is the real leader of the party. When congressmen can't criticize a radio host that is aligned with his party, then it is a very scary time for the party. Although I am a Democrat, I feel that the the implosion of the GOP is sad. But, if its leaders aren't going to stand up to this clown and have simple minded, ignorant ideologues like Palin, then they deserve their fate.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  11. SlowGun

    Rush will stay Steele is not a “real” Republican.
    Then tomorrow, Steele will apologize to Rush and say his words were taken out of context.

    March 2, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  12. Kat

    Rush Limbaugh is a hateful old croney who does nothing but hurt U.S. politics by spewing the stuff he does to listeners who are willing to do anything for him just because he asked them to. He's a GOP puppetmaster, pulling the strings of a lazy, uninformed populus. The day he goes off the air should be a day for celebration.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  13. Bob

    GOP – R.I.P.
    delusional zombies, all. Those who remain. The GOP committed suicide- when they started listening to Gingrich, whose only message has ever been "we're right, and up yours." Please, PLEASE, run Palin for Pres.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  14. Todd

    I hope Republicans keep people Limbaugh and Coulter as the face of Republicans.Those people SCARE MOST EVEN MINDED AMERICANS AWAY. Please keep it up!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  15. golden microphone

    I love capitalism.Somebody has to go broke for me to get rich,thats how it works people.I sit in the sand and drink margaritas and you just eat the sand.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  16. DianeH

    The Republican party is on life support, and its terminal. hasta La Vista

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  17. Danny in Chicago

    Audrey wrote: March 2nd, 2009 12:46 pm ET

    Had it,

    Obama is Pelosi's puppet. The stimulus package was reflective of her handiwork, not the his. Where were the tax cuts for small businesses that Obama promsies? How come so much of the infrastructure spending was replaced with pork projects? Because Pelosi runs the show!


    That's hilarious Audrey! What are YOUR solutions then?

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  18. DvlsAdvocat

    Steele may be the titular head of the Republican party, but Limbaugh is obviously the spiritual and policy agenda head. Every leader cowtows to his position, and apologizes profusely if they cross his stated positions. I haven't seen ANY Congressmen or Senators acquiesce to Steele's positions.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  19. Felly

    CNN, you need to allow us to comment or blog on Rush Limbaugh posting. The Grand Obstructionist Party is shrinking and will remain in the wilderness for a long time because they are out of touch and full of radicals and extremists like Limbaugh, Hannity, Ann Coulter and Bill Oreilly. These are a bunch of idiots, period.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. Gina in Racine Wi

    Steele was only voted in to this position because we have an African American President....which is sad....because I believe him to be an intelligent man.

    Steele will come and go....but Rush....his big mouth.....lack of a high school diploma....and drug addiction.....will be around to "lead" the GOP for many years to come.

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  21. Corey

    Don't worry, folks; the two of them will kiss and make up. Mr. Steele, have you heard from your ex-brother-in-law Mike Tyson lately?

    March 2, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  22. HelloooOOOOO

    Limbaugh is treading a fine line now, bordering on being a "home grown terrorist, and treason"...

    March 2, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  23. Homer

    He had better call Rush up and ask his forgivness.

    March 2, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  24. Reggie

    Audrey, why is this so, is it because you listen to Rush and all the other knuckle heads in the repukeblican party. It's called pork because the repukeblicans say so. The so called pork is less than 2% of the total stimulus.

    March 2, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  25. Really?

    Just keep talking Rush/Coulter/Hannity. Being irrelevant suits you all just fine!

    March 2, 2009 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
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