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. ran

    If this continues there will not be a Republican party which is fine with me. I have had enough of the hate coming out of theses people. If the Republican party wants to be relevant at all in the future they need to get ride of all these hateful leaders and their far right ideologies because if not we may and should be a one party system if that is what it takes to do the right thing for all of us.

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

    Limbaugh should apoligize to Americans and resign from the Republican Party. AT a time like this how can anyone hope Obamas plan fails, doesn't he get it .... He clearly is a hate mongerer whose only aim is to divide America.

    March 2, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  3. Owen

    Rush Limbaugh is full of you know what. What an absolutely terrible person he is to wish our President to fail. I hated Bush, but I didn't want him to fail, really. For the president to fail means the country fails. Rush needs a reality check and needs to grow up. It's people like him who are the reason our country is in crisis right now.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  4. Mike

    Talk about a disgrace to the US, that would be obamby,pelosi,reid, barney and chris dodd. How is a bill not signed by President Bush, part of his deficit from last year. Last years spending bill not signed by President Bush will be signed by obamby, thereby, making that spending bill his not President Bush. Now suddenly deficit spending is good for the economy and obamby is sure doing his part. At this rate, when he hits 03 months in office he will have doubled the national debt that it took 200+ years to reach. Oh yes, change we can believe in and we are who we have been waiting for. I am waiting for 2012 and have real change.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  5. Obama 08

    Now Steele has to tell Rush he's sorry.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  6. roger dowdle, lockhart, Tx

    Steele IS the leader of the repubs, as long as he does what Rush tells him to! The condition of the country is reflective of repub control of congress and the pres for the last 8-10 years. They cannot afford to let the dems try anything that might work, because that would showcase the failure of the repub theories!

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. bj, Texas

    Way to go Rush! You've really hit a nerve with these pro Odrama cult following that is the media and the libs. While we watch our country go down the drain at their hands, I look forward to listening to you to get my marching orders. Keep pissing them off. Love it!

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Bryant Amper

    Steele may be the defacto head of the RNC, however too many Republicans toss in their lots with that bloviating gasbag,the drug addled Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Jared

    Puppets, fools, promoting agendas...? Is anyone else getting sick of this crap? Winston Churchill once said that the best argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter. That statement has never been more pertinent. Thanks to the recent election, politics have become the latest craze and everyone is expressing their ill-informed opinions each and every chance they get.

    Let us defer to the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid); republican controlled white house and congress fail big time in their 8 years of what was supposed to be a permanent rule of movement conservatism (whats that? refer to Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman). Counrty wakes up and decides to elect democrats, why? Because republicans failed. We rejected republican principles because they did not, and will not, work in this economy.

    So why are we hearing any arguments from republicans that democrats will destroy this country? Because they lost and their ideals are no longer accepted, so guess what: Until democrats prove they are incapable of performing any better, republicans will remain on the sidelines...where they rightfully belong.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Marsha

    Audrey- Whose puppet are you? The President is clearly a very thoughtful, analytical indidvidual unlike the last puppet you voted for...what a jerk you are for calling him a puppet.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Ricci

    So I should listen to a drug user who can't put down the dinner fork. This man Limbaugh is an ugly stain that we dont need right now. This country needs to pull together not fight with itself, Hope the president fails, my god what is wrong with this man. The republican party is obviously shaken to it core to be so desperate. Is Rush worried he wont make another million this year because a child somewhere needs medical attention? They weigh profit against survival. Not all poor people want a hand out,some would really like to further their education. So many rich people are born into money, then get a good education. The poor would love a chance to get a better education and have a better life,since it isnt handed to us.

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

    The Republican party does not care about minorities, they elect michael Steele for what? we are not easily fooled.

    Just remember we are not idiots, black people invent alot of things. RUSH is the voice of the Republican of which I will have no party even if the sky is falling.

    If the Republican was the last set of people in the world to save lives, I would rather die.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. John, Montreal

    Im sorry Mr. Steele..the sooner you realize that you & Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter are worlds apart, the better for you & the "conservative" ideas you are trying to formulate for the "urban" areas. Its only a matter of time before you & Jindal are cut lose. You are at best a negro pall bearer to the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  14. Wisconsin Vet

    This man is on some really good stuff to wish the President fails. Does he not know that We as an American people fail if the President fails. "Rush Put Down The Stash"

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  15. R Cross

    Steele da man! Steele da man! My bad? When will we see him bent over on puppetmaster Limbaughs show? These guys are beyond sad.
    XOXO hahahah

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

    Unless Rush gets 'Jiggy With it' and is 'Off the Hook', he can't possibly speak for conservatives. Then again, Steele isn't exactly showing much leadership for the right. The GOP and conservative movement is in it's death throes...thankfully.

    And really need to read more.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  17. Geraldine, Mead, OK

    I can't help but wonder if our country is going to survive the smug arrogance and divisiveness of Rush Limbaugh & Ann Coulter on the right and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi on the left. There are times when I think all four of them need to be tar and feathered then run out of town on a rail.

    Thank God I have the mute and previous channel buttons on my remote control. When any of these four people appear on my TV screen I tune them out or turn them off. Limbaugh reminds me of Jim Jones of Jonestown and his followers make me embarrased to be an American. And I'm a registered Republican and a member of The Senatorial Inner Circle. By the way I feel the same way about Sean Hannity and a few other Democrats as well. I don't listen to them or want to see them either.

    Geri – Mead, OK

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  18. John John

    Q: What is 100?
    A: The sum total of IQs of all Republicans in the US.
    Comment: If W did not contribute his mite, the IQ figure will be less than 100!

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  19. Jeff

    He is just as bad as Coulter. If he is going to wish the worst for our nation in tough times then I hope he takes the brunt of the blow. Maybe instead of blowing hot air he could produce a viable solution.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Lisa P

    I'm not sure which is more entertaining: Michael Steele in denial about who's calling the shots (hint: the one with the most ridiculous ideas and cheap-shot laugh lines) or the spokesperson of The Party of No pretending that the Republicans have any interest in "fighting for reform" in Washington.

    2012 should be fun!

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. Peggy - TX

    Steele was elected to organize the next Republican National Convention, an important role, but “leadership” of the party does not necessarily follow. Rush has proven effective in setting the tone for the party, eliminating some candidates, promoting others, and establishing party issues; thus Rush is, in effect, the most prominent leader of the Republican party. His following of angry ignoramuses will not permit the Republican party to change the failed party agenda or promote a fresh candidate with national appeal.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  22. Rtreff

    It is sad when the Head of a formerly powerful and arrogant politcal party has to come out and remind everyone that he, not a high-price pill popper, is the GOP MAN.

    It would be like Obama having to remind everyone that he is head of the Dems and not, say, Al Franken.

    Very sad indeed!

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

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

    The Republican party has nearly ruined America with it's idoitic Reagan BS. Either get on board and find a way to make it work for you or, if you have "had it", please leave and take the rest of the few Republicans left with you. America has spoken.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  24. ADS


    I'd rather be a puppet of Pelosi than a puppet of a hate mongering drug addict.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  25. decent american

    rush is indeed an entertainer.. but he does know the liberal mindset. and now so do i. as does the majority of americans, not the majority of voting americans, but that will change too.

    March 2, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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