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. Jac

    I'm sure we can all agree that the democrats in 2000 wanted Bush to succeed. Amirite? What were those "Not my president" bumper stickers all about? As usual, liberals seem to have a short term memory.

    March 2, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. Ryan

    I just might have to listen to his show once to see how Rushy can spin this one.

    March 2, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Chris

    Well, I can respect Steele for being honest, at least.

    March 2, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  4. Kimwal

    Rush and Steele BOTH speak for me.

    March 2, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Coamot

    Um, Michael Steele, try as you may, you cannot simply take away the mantle of leadership away from Limbaugh that easily. You've already shown that you, like the rest of the GOP, are an anachronism. For that matter, Limbaugh is too, but at least he knows a problem when he sees it. It's the rest of you that don't. It simply delicious watching the GOP writhe as it dies in agony. Oh well, maybe it'll become relevant again in some future generation.

    March 2, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  6. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    So an ill-informed, arrogant, rude loud mouth with an eating disorder, multiple drug addictions, and a fake name is considered by some the leader and the soul of the "new" GOP? "You da man, Rush, you betcha". Heaven help America if that party takes the White House back with a third rigged election, as they surely could not win fair and square with Limbaugh and Palin and Coulter at the helm. More and more the GOP seems straight off the Jerry Springer show! No ideas, no solutions, only hateful shock-jock rhetoric.

    March 2, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. Larry

    Something for the Democrats to think about:

    If there were not Republicans there would not be any body for you to work for.The "rich" Republicans that you seem to hate would not be paying all of the taxes that honest people pay for all of the entitlement programs that you and the Democrats live off of,and there would not be any body in the military that protect you and your family,since it is an all volunteer military now.Think about it,we are the cash cow for Obama.

    March 2, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Rick

    In the absence of true leadership, people will look to anyone to fill the void. I agree with Steele that Limbaugh is an entertainer. He will do what it takes to keep his name in the news.

    Republicans need to figure out what their strategy and plan for the future is before they are derailed completely.

    March 2, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Kate

    To say that Rush Limbaugh runs the republican party is to say that Keith Olbermann runs the democratic party. Does Keith say what we want to hear in an entertaining way? Sure. But, we all know that he's kind of a nut job, and not exactly what democrats want as the poster child of a democrat in America. I say nut job in only the most flattering way possible.

    People are giving Rush Limbaugh FAR too much attention, just like they're doing for Sarah Palin. If we stop talking about them, they might just go away.

    March 2, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Terrence Sullivan

    Rush Limbaugh represents all that is ugly about America. Limbaugh is a bombastic blowhard. The majority of America sees Limbaugh as hateful and intolerant. The man is a bigot and hypocrite. Other endearing values are selfishness and egomania. If you revere Rush Limbaugh you embrace all these characteristics and the values they represent. This is the face of conservative America

    March 2, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. bill in houston


    dont tick off the BIG man, Michael. you know you are only where you are at cause Rush let you get there

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. Skip, a black man

    Rush is the man!

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Penny

    I am SO tired of this hate spewer. What is HIS solution for anything?

    He has been the leader of divisive rhetoric for so long, and I am always amazed that people believe him!

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  14. Steve

    The kind of people who worship Rush Limbaugh are the same people who will destroy the Republican party if allowed to run it.
    Simple truths are best!

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. KDM

    Rush is inspirational, not ugly. Mr Steele should observe Rush more closely to find out what it means to be true leader of conservatives.

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. Ralph phillip burns

    I must agree, Mr. Steele is out of touch with what's going on, you can call him delusional, because Limbaugh and hanady speak for ALL republicans, they should be the next President and vice president because they have all the answers. Mr Steel is not only a puppet but a token.

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  17. Santosh Misra

    Obviously, Republican party faithfuls like 'odds' such as Rush Limbaugh and the applause certainly suggests that. If Republican party faithfuls keep on listening to such characters, it should be good for everyone since it should lead to further decline of the Republican party in the next year's election.

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Anna, Missouri

    He will be known as the "experiment" that the Repugs tried. Anyone want to guess how long he will last after Rush gets done with him?

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  19. Jeff B.

    I like Rush. People that say they don't like him typically don't listen to his show. I started listeneing precisely becasue of the comments people made about him. Once I tuned in, I found that most of the things people say about him just aren't true.

    I don't know why liberals are so obsessed with Rush. Maybe it's becasue deep down, they know they can't win an argument against him.

    He's just a talk show host, people. Relax. You already have most of the media in the tank for the left, anyway. Let Rush do his thing.

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Eyes wide OPEN

    Rush is so full of Hate ........I wonder if Rush has something that he holds over the Repubs heads some type of deep secret ...... on the other hand this Guy is so full of hate until he will surely die with his EYES wide OPEN....

    March 2, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  21. ksara

    What happened to Obama's promise to look at each bill line by line and get rid of any and all pork? This is yet another campaign promise by Obama.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. Butch Watson

    Mr. Steele would be wise to listen to Rush. Rush is more in tune to what the conservatives would like to see the party move toward in the future! If you stay on the same destructive course the republican party has been on without returning to core values then the outcome of future elections will be more of the same!

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  23. Sher

    Speaking of puppets Audrey, you can find Obama's proposed budget with a quick search. YOU might want to educate YOURSELF there!

    And who is the slacker at CNN that approved a post that isn't even close to the topic of discussion?

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  24. cnnnewser

    Sure Mr. Steele – sure you're the party leader....and I just won a billion dollar lottery! LOLOL
    Crawl back under your rock.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. Tim

    P.S. Either way, the Republicans are in deep trouble. Who is your leader? Limbaugh? A pill-popping, blow hard? Steel? He couldn't win his own senate campaign and now he will help the rest of the Republican candidates be victorious in 2010? Romney? Another rich guy who has no connection to the common people whatsoever? Better keep loooking for your leader.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
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