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. Jane (Minnesota)

    Mr Steele – I don't think you're correct – The Republicans are going to listen to Rush before they liten to you!

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

    Wonder if Steele will have to apologize for his truthful comments about Rush? Rush has the right to free speech but his comments promote hate against anyone who doesn't think just like him. United we will survive this horrendous economic crisis divided ALL OF US will fail. I love my country too much to wish that on our great nation.

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  3. jerry

    Rush: Morbidly obese, recovering prescription drug addict. Yep, that about sums up the lost party of Republicans....

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  4. dave B

    People that call Rush's comments ugly have not listened to the words in context , from Rushes mouth . They are just puppets of the media repeating and repeating . I dare you to listen to him en toto then argue with what he has to say .....................But it is easyer to call some one biggot and stupid and move on .

    I want America to win , not the little Marxist dictator. ( obama for those of you from Reo Linda)

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. sam


    I own and run a small business, and have for 26 years. I feel that the ever increasing cost of group healthcare is the biggest tax on my business. Otherwise, I've seen some advantages to early write downs, etc. in the package the president has put forward.

    Please state some facts – about the pork projects you mention. Did you read the whole package – it's available on line to read. Or are you just spewing out some lines R. L. has pounded into everyone. It seems to me after reading the whole package, that most of these line items will in some way put someone to work.

    You talk about infrastructure. It crumbles because of a decade under who's auspices ???

    March 2, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. Raj

    Stupids does not have horn on their head to recognize so the Rush Limbaugh. Stupids talk stupids isn't? I would say he is another puppet of lobbies t, not to mention about Republican party.

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

    dude of truth:

    I'd be willing to bet you've never listened to a single one of Rush's programs in its entirety. You probably just repeat what you hear in one ten-second sound byte on CNN or MSNBC, and then develop some "deep understanding" of how evil he is. I can speculate on you as well based on a single comment:

    You didn't complete grammar school because you don't know when to use "our" versus "are".


    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  8. ac

    well its good to see that Steele is distancig himself from limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |

    To the G.O.P, Michael Steele was the answer to President Obama as Sarah Palin was the answer to Secretary Hillary Clinton. Mr. Steele was selected by the G.O.P for a reason and it had nothing to do with the fact that they felt he was qualified. When they don't see an increase of black people into the G.O.P, Mr Steele wll be gone...

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  10. David in Dallas

    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."

    Conservative Americans don't quote you, Steele. They quote Limbaugh.

    A true leader doesn't have to talk themselves up.

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

    Dear GOP,
    Please continue to let people like Coulter and Limbaugh speak for you. I think it truly shows the ignorant stance you take on so many issues. It defines your party and the road you have paved for years. Looking at the popularity of Palin( a person who can't name the capitals of all 50 states) is another great milestone for you. Please keep up the good work!

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  12. Bonnie Kimberly

    Mr Steele needs to get a hold of his party quickly. Mr Limbaugh is what most of us see as a really strange bedfellow for the GOP right now. He says stuff he knows will get the base to react and then acts like he really said something else. And by the way when did the GOP start to rely on bigots and hypocrites to get by in this world? I remember when William F Buckley could say just about anything and still keep a civil tongue in his head. and I listened to what he said and found merit in a lot of what he said. I hear Limbaugh Hannity and Coulter and don't want to even Aline my deepest personal thoughts with them. They are making my country look evil and base and I regret it very much.How do we get back to making these folks less a part of the narrative?

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  13. sick of limbaugh

    why is this rush so important anyway? He should concentrate on his radio show and stop trying to run the country? next he'll be running in 2012 another joke

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. KG, Twin Cities

    If Rush isn't leading your party then why was he at CPAC?

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

    It's obvious that Limbaugh's sole goal is to promote himself and his show and that he has no interest or desire in seeing this economic earthquake come to and end and for our country to get back on track again. He appeals to the knuckle draggers who don't understand anything about business and investment. His hero is Ronal Regan who espoused cutting taxes and reducing the size of government while increasing the size of the national debt and increasing the size of government. I can't understand how conservatives continue to look to up people like the drug addicted Limbaugh and the gambling addicted Bill Bennett. These guys are loosers who happen to have made it big on the national stage. They are nothing but low life – and if they really wanted to make a difference they would run for office and try to make change from within but neither have ability or heart to do anymore than try to derail anything or anyone who does not support their brand of "conservativeness" which is all just a smoke screen for the fact that they are both really entertainers who I don't find very entertaining.

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  16. Jason B.

    Mr. Steele may be in charge of the GOP, but unfortunately I believe Limbaugh has the attention of the GOP members. I mean really Rush, you think Obama is inspiring fear in the American people? What did Bush and company do for 8 years? How often did we hear "We have to do this or the terrorists win!"

    March 2, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  17. Ron

    Rush Limbaugh is guilty of treason. He is an egotistical idiot. Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open ones' mouth and remove all doubt. To publicly say that he wants President Obama to fail is saying he wants America to fail. How un-American can you get? These are dire times for America and we all need to pull together to save our way of life. America voted for change. The Republican party under George Bush and his cronies ran the American economy into the ground and now they have the audacity to say what he is doing is wrong? It is time to give someone else and new ideas a chance.

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  18. pat C.


    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  19. i see how it is

    it seems 'someone' is jealous that people listen to Rush's opinion, that people know rush's name but have never heard of michael steele. to the point he is willing to jeopardize what little gains his party might have made since the elections.

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  20. Nomoreloonyleft

    @ 'dude of truth': You are a dud and not a dude. Learn how to spell.

    The hypocrisy of those liberals who spewed anti-Bush hatred for the past eight years but are now outraged at Limbaugh's comments is nauseating but not surprising. If you try to analyze what Limbaugh is saying (something many on the left are intellectually unable to do), his comments are understandable. Why would a true conservative want to see a radical left-wing politican implement a socialist, big government agenda? Of course he would want Obama to fail. Wake up, Obamasheep!!The problem is, too many on the left dare not question 'Him', and for others to do so is just not acceptable....

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  21. Marc

    Dude of truth obviously has no clue about what Rush actually promotes.

    Rush promotes capitalism, what brought our once great nation to the pinnacle of power.

    He hopes any plan to turn our nation into a socialist form of government fails. I hope that as well. YOU SHOULD HOPE THAT TOO.

    Steele just helped to divide the republican party further, I hope he's happy.

    Conservatives want conservative ideas and when the leader of a party states that the person who is promoting true conservative ideas is "ugly" then he isn't going to unify the part.

    It's a shame, in 2010, after the dismal disgrace of the Obama administration has 2 years to destroy us, we'll have a chance to take back the house and senate, or would, if Steele would help unify conservatives.

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  22. Mark in Redmond WA

    Limbaugh is a self-serving piece of crap. If he really loved this country, he would support his President and urge others to do the same, especially during this critical moment in this country's history!!

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. Allan Hanson

    Anyone who takes Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter seriosly needs to reexamine their sanity. They are all windbags that, as Coulter says, will say anything to get a response and get on the media.
    They are an insult to those of us that can think for ourselves, and do not need these windbags to tell us what to think.
    Unfortunatly many people can't think for themselves and follow these nut cases.
    Wake up and smell the roses.

    March 2, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Jack

    Rush Limbaugh is the best candidate for presidency and as GOP candidate (not Mitt) in the year 2012. So every Republicans should vote for Rush Limbaugh. I am calling all republican to make Rush Limbaugh as our next Republican President. Rush Limbaugh is the equivalent to George Washington. Go Limbaugh, go!

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. lucyl

    Rush wants Obama's policies to fail because if Obama's policies succeed our country will be hurt. If Rush felt his policies were the right way to go, he would hope that they would succeed like the rest of us. And it looks like Obama is only interested in his radical agenda.

    March 2, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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