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. Kathy_in _Indiana

    Rush Limbaugh is the leader and the spokesman for the Republican Party. Steele is a black wanta be Obama who will never gain the status that he seeks.

    When you talk to a Republican, they don't quote from Steele, they quote from Rush Limbaugh.

    He might as well be Co-Chair of the RNC. He's the gift that keeps on giving to the Democratic Party! I'm loving it!

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. NYFN08

    Is it any wonder that the GOP is in trouble? Look at their potential leaders: This guy, Bobby Jindal after his breakout "rebuttal" speech last week, and Rush Limbaugh. Yes, Rush speaks for many conservatives just as Palin did and does, don't deny it. I wish all the best to the the party during reorganization, but I see no reason at this point why President Obama won't be in office for 8 years.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  3. Beverly, NYC

    Steele you may be the head, is appears Limbaugh,Coulter, Hannity and the rest of the hate mongers are the neck and they are turning your party however they wish. Don't be mad at Rahm Emmanuel for stating the truth. Did you really think the good ole boys would let you ebonics up the Geriatric Old Party. They just learned to Twitter, baby steps, baby steps.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  4. Once you vote Black

    Dream on. Steele leads as long as he does what the Great MaHaRushie wants him to do. Any deviation from that and Steele becomes a poster child for what is wrong with the GOP. Just look at how ghetto the GOP has become since Steele has taken over. Even that nice clean white women from MN has been quoted as saying "you da man." What a negitive influance when he has pure women like her dumbing down her words to fit in.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  5. Bridgette-PA

    Ok, "Audrey" – Have you really "had it?" What are you going to do about it? NOTHING! Just like I could do nothing about Mr. Bush. I had to "had it" for 8 years. If I had to do it, so do you!

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  6. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Poor pathetic Steele. Rush Limbaugh has been leading the party long before Steele was even known and will continue to lead. Steele is nothing but a figure head and no more. If Steele wants to salvage whatever is left of his political future, he'd leave them Republicans to Rush Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  7. Miles

    NO DEMOCRAT... ESPECIALLY Pelosi, Reid and the rest of the socialists are going to tell me that Rush is the leader of my party.

    This is merely a political move to try and paint republicans with a broad, ugly brushstroke. Can you say "political grandstanding"? And before you morons say, "Well Rush does the same thing", remember that he is a radio personality and gets paid to grandstand. ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES should worry more about the econimic crisis and less about who their rival's "leader" is.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  8. SecularAnimist

    Audrey wrote: "Obama is Pelosi's puppet."

    Pelosi's puppet! Woo hoo, good one!

    Of course any discussion about Rush Limbaugh would be incomplete without one of his self-proclaimed "ditto-heads" showing up to slavishly regurgitate his corporate-sponsored, scripted, focus-group-tested, bumper-sticker talking points for dummies.

    The fact is, friend Audrey, you don't have any clue what tax cuts or infrastructure investments are in the stimulus package - all you are doing is obediently repeating whatever lies Rush Limbaugh spoon-feeds you.

    Michael Steele is quite right to call Rush Limbaugh's comments "ugly". The question is, will Mr. Steele have the guts to stand up to Limbaugh and the inevitable onslaught of hate mail from Limbaugh's ditto-heads? Or, like other prominent Republicans who have criticized Limbaugh recently, will Steele soon be crawling on his belly before the throne of Limbaugh, begging for forgiveness?

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. J Weiss

    Anytime I want a rational considered opinion, I'll ask an obese drug addict. Why do so many people listen to what this clown spews? He is just noise designed by rich shareholders to distract average people from the real problems we face. I blame the media for keeping him popular by devoting so much screen time to him. If he was ignored, he would go away eventually.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Wink

    Let the Republicans cry over their loss. They can't even decide who leads their party.

    We've gone so far right that any movement to the center is seen as socialist to them. While they cry that the end is near, Obama and the Dems are at least trying to do something.

    Let the right-wing rant, they'll eventually cry themselves to sleep

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

    what would you expect from a drug addict. nothing but hatred and filth. how can any decent person listen to the likes of him .if that is what the republican party has to offer ,i feel sorry for them.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  12. Chenna Benna


    You mean Steele and every Repug ditto head are Rush's puppets. Repubs are afraid to go after him when they disagree with him. One senator who spoke up against his comments about wanting the president to fail, actually apologized to Rush on his radio show after that senator got a boatload of calls from his constituents.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |

    RUSH -- IS --–A --– BIG --- FAT --- IDIOT

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. Rick Sutter

    Limbaugh speaks the truth. Toughen up. His language may not be diplomatic, but then it doesn't have to be. He is not an elected official. Democrats would do better to ignore his comments than feed into his success. Again, "the dude of truth", do better research. What Limbaugh (and all conservatives) wants to fail is Obama's push toward bigger government and entitlement programs, and increased taxes on business. The argument that conservatives "want America to fail" is just as inflammatory (and incorrect) as the Democrats "wanting America to fail in Iraq". I think this is just Democrat payback for those comments during the Bush administration. Both sides are equally guilty for our mess. Let's go third party next time.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  15. jbencollins

    Ah yes, our multi headed dragon/addict Rush has reared his ugly heads again. Keep it up pal, you are plunging your party down the drain. May be you and Senora Palin could join forces and totally alienate all your members. Good job.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. Andrew in Dearborn MI

    Rush is a Dinosaur and belongs in a museum, along with "Reaganomics" and everything else that caused the country to collapse like it is. Trickle-down economics failed – get over it, and see how the country can rebuild with new leadership and new policies.

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. James Allen

    Rush Limbaugh is the modern day Jim Jones that's looking for followers...

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

    I feel the Republican party as a whole is "JOKE". And as for as Mr. Steele, he would'nt be in that position if President Obama, who is black, wasn't in office. The Republican paryt is using him and he is a puppet to go along.
    Whatever the president does will be criticized because he has ordinary people in mind with the decisions he makes. Unlike the Bush years where all his decisions were for big business.
    If the Republican party cant get behind this president at this time in all of our lives they never will!

    March 2, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. mytabloids

    Hey Steele, nice try...but your party handed over the keys to the great hate mongers like Coulter and Rush years ago. You won't find it easy to put the genie back in the bottle - especially Rush, considering that he clearly lives life large, as it any good Rich Republican!

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. walleye

    Limbarf just throws out hatred and venom because his party lost. Well – with people who continue to think like he does, I dont think the Dems have much to fear for a long time. When he says he hopes Obama fails, he is basically saying he wants America to fail. Anyone who listens to him should have their head checked out.

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Arlene Illinois

    Steele get off the Bus your not in charge, Limbaugh is!

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  22. Obama - YES!

    Yeah, sure Steele does; in his mind.

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. Matt

    Seriously Audrey? Obama is the speaker of the house's puppet? Are you delusional? Barack Obama is not only a better politician but their agendas are completely different. Letting Pelosi write the bill was a brilliant political move, keeps her inline and out of his way so he can accomplish more of his actual agenda. And if you followed you would know that after the house wrote the bill, more infrastructure was added and a lot of the "pork" was pulled out. Stuff like train from cali to vegas (good idea) will create jobs and ps its not going to disneyland! So stop listening to Rush and that idiot Michael Steele. If you knew your stuff you would know that pelosi runs nothing, Obama holds more political clout than anyone!

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  24. Dave Michigan

    Rush Limbaugh, who I listened to religiously for 6 years, is nothing more than hatefilled useless noise.
    He reminds me of a drunk that pushes his worthless spew on everyone around him as if it was the gospel truth.

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  25. Reality 101

    If Rush isn't the leader:

    Why does he get the most air time?
    Why do elected Republicans feel the need to apologize to him when they speak out against Rush?
    Why was he the headliner at the CPAC?
    Why was he met with a roaring crowd of approval?

    Michael Steele you are being lead by the wrong one. It would be crazy for you to deny that you do not have a stronghold on your party. The negativity of Rush, Coulter and others like them are holding you back in a big way. The 13 year-old at the CPAC is the only one that actually has the right idea. He should be the leader of the party.

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
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