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. Adam

    Limbaugh is just another far-right parrot. Every word he spews is a contradiction.

    Funny that Rush starts talking about "captialism and individual liberty" as the foundation for the nation. It must be convenient being a "conservative" these days – you don't even have to actually believe in the things you supposedly support. As a "conservative" (or more accurately a neo-conservative) he supports fewer individual freedoms...until he gets caught for something, then he's all for personal freedom.

    I swear, the Republican leadership gets more oblivious to reality by the day. Next thing they'll be calling the sky green.

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

    This gives me more respect for Steele. Limbaugh, who was previously seen as an extremist, has been elevated just in the past couple months for reasons I can't understand. I thought he was on his way out, and then suddenly the Wall Street Journal gives him a column. Steele is a strong person for standing up to Limbaugh's bigotry, chauvinism and devisive rants.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Jon

    I'm not sure why Republicans insist on following an unhealthy, uneducated former drug addict like Limbaugh, but I'm glad they do.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. davit

    So there is some admission that he is incendiary and ugly, but he is in no way repudiated by the GOP, though he speaks exclusively for them?

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  5. mike

    He will be on Rush's show apologizing by the end of the week. Just you watch.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. jill

    the republican want substance? like joe the plumber, william ayers, etc.? keep on digging your grave, gop.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  7. Nancy

    When will the Dem/Libs get it right? The Republicans only want the American Dream to suceed. If you want something, then go out and get a job to earn the money. If you already have a job, then save up until you can buy it without using your credit card which only makes money for the credit card companies on people who don't pay their balance in full each month. Don't expect the government to just give you what you can instead earn for yourself.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  8. Orville

    I love Limbaugh & Coulter! They are the best thing that can happen to the Democratic party. Thy will continue to alienate more and more Americans and thereby make the Democratic party stronger! The majority of America and particularly the young people see how unAmerican and devisive those two are. Limbaugh & Coulter believe their beliefs are more important than improving what is best for the American people. They would rather see Obama's administration fail rather than improve the plight of so many. Have they ever thought how bad things would be if their wishes came true and the current plan failed?...If they were true patriots they would swallow their pride and do all they can to make Obama's plan successful, because heaven help us if we don't pull out of this economic crisis!

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  9. dee

    nobody cares what that oxycontin dopehead says anyway!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  10. Doubting Thomas

    Yes, there is hatred but I sense it more strongly from those accusing others of it- on both sides. Name calling is, use of words like disgrace...personal judgements only.

    As far as Steele...title does not make for a leader- I have to say the one that motivates others to move is the leader. Rush is that person.

    I will also agree he can be incendiary but he does have a role as an entertainer. I see people in washington who are representatives use the same stuff- that's frightening.

    In this environment...people like Rush are needed because people, both democratic and republican, are frustrated. Republicans have advantage because their feet are not tied by having voted for Obama. Those who did and are disenchanted have to hope because they have no where else to turn.

    It is unfortunate we are here but I would have hoped someone who spent two years running for an office had more behind him than blaming the person he replaced and what he inherited. It was not put upon him. He accumulated $700 mil in order to win this inheritance.
    He is very .....

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. Dave in Nevada


    "Obama is Pelosi's puppet. The stimulus package was reflective of her handiwork"

    If I'm not mistaken all money bills are proposed by the House, not the President. Welcome to know your Government week.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. richard

    Its good for the Democrats that Limbaugh is "head" of the Republican party. In the 2010 elections, voters will see that his philosopy of hoping that Omama fails will be attributed to all Republicans. If the economy is still down, the electorate will clean house of the remaining GOP members who are preventing Obama from doing his job.

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

    As a Dem, Steele concerns me because he is rational. I am, however, very comforted by Limbaugh, Coulter and the like. These hateful, irrational lunatics will push us further and further in the correct direction. We could probably go ahead and add Audrey (above) to that list. lol

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |

    I love how former President Bush can be compared to Hitler and never once was there an outcry. I am very middle of the road when it comes to politics, but as far as what I see, liberals have a double standard when it comes to talking about the president.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  15. greed is not good

    This is why the Republican party is doomed – Limbaugh and Coulter's fanatic and divisive antics have hi-jacked the whole party and its base.

    March 2, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  16. Alice Fried

    Audrey, read the stimulus, the tax cuts are there, particularly for small businesses. I urge you not to fillibuster with someone else's talking points. Use the power of engagement Obama's election unleashed on us and seek information to formulate your own truths. And try not to sacrafice your own best interests for ideology or because someone else says you should. That's what got us into this hole. Not enough voters taking time to look at all sides and demand the truth. Right now, Republicans appear to be the most guilty of that.

    March 2, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  17. LA2NC

    Audrey, the deal on the infrastructure was " shovel ready". If you can come up with additional projects that meet the criteria, please feel free to reach out to your state officials. Also, please give the man a break, as they say " Rome wasn't built in a day".

    March 2, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  18. Joe

    Rush is an entertainer. Franken is an entertainer. With the resurgence of the 'Fairness Doctrine', if Franken gets in the Senate, then they will have to make room for Limbaugh as well – right Sen. Stabenow?.

    March 2, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. MJ

    Face it Mike, they elected your image – nothing more. You are NOT their leader.

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

    Careful Mr. Steele. You may have to apologize for dissing Rush.

    March 2, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. Retired GOP

    What little remains of the Republican party will be totally destroyed between Jindahl and Steele. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Obama will become the heads of The New Communist Party in America.

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  22. Angela

    you know what i am tired of? everyone critizing or whatever and no one offering any ideas. what the repubs want is the country to stay divided. the olive branch was handed out, they were asked their opinion – but they had none. they were asked for their ideas – they had none. but when something tries to get done around here – they cry like babies – and still they offer to solution.

    Now you have an arrogant windbag who only wants to stay in the focus and make rude remarks. rush is so jeolous of the fact the spotlight is on obama – that he has to make some kind of controversial remark. even if it against his own party. religion is still the biggest business – yes i am sorry it is a business in the US instead of being actually what it was meant to be.

    it is sad to see such a great nation be in turmoil like this. it is also sad to see that this great nation is also bringing down the entire world with it. it is also sad to see that people do not care about the sad state we are in.

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  23. Conservative man

    For those who dislike Rush – remember this – Rush is a conservative and accordingly, he does not want to see the Liberal agenda succeed-an agenda which conservatives believe will ruin this country. He has stated previously (which most lefty bloggers as well as the "drive-by-media" neglect to report) that he does not want to see Obama fail, only his extreme left wing policies. He has an approach which is both entertaining and informative-if you really listen to what he says.

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. John John

    Rush leads the Republic party because his IQ is same as that of the average Republican....40!

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |

    and allow me to say this as well...Mr. Steele Probably called Rush to apologize after stating these comments...these games are too much and the media is playing along..why can't we dominate the airwaves with news about green jobs and the good things happening in this country like CNN covered about the little city in N.D.

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
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