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. Oklahoma Sooner

    If Rush Limbaugh is leading the Republican Party, the republicans are in serious trouble. He is a man that represents only the most by-the-book conservative wing of the party. He takes ridiculously strong generic positions on every subject that he speaks about so that he can appeal to almost all republicans and grow the quantity of listeners to his show. He is in the political realm for the money, not the principles.

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

    This guy is a loser.

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. marie

    We live in a world that is more interested in info-mation rather than researched news reporting! Look at the interest in the Octomom over the Iraq troops being pulled out of Iraq in 18 months; people seemed more interested in that trainwreck rather than our soldiers and Marines coming home! It does not surprise me that the Republican Party is letting Limbaugh run itself into the ground, they have no back bone that is why they let Bush do what he wanted! I was Republian not now. We have sqaundered our wealth and let those in charge just put a match to it.

    The trouble with that big fat idoit is that he breathes a sort of dysfuntion that is rampant in America; almost like a sub-culture. the party is done and he is just entertaining.

    Lets see him put some money behind his big fat mouth, I bet if Obama did fail he would be singing a different tune then wouldn't he. You can be part of the solution or the problem, Limbagh is the problem and if the party wants to survive they better back off from him fast of they are going down with him.

    Why the mainstream media even gives him more than his 3 minutes is beyone me, but one thing for sure is the people spoke and well if Republicans don't step up to the plate and include all in this country and face all its problems they will be replaced and disappear.

    I am gald Obama is president! Spreading around the wealth as he puts it; hahah there is no wealth left they spent is all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We are in survival mode now not spreading it around.

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Joe the Troll

    I wonder if Steele has pondered why Republicans react so favorably to "entertainment" that is "ugly."

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  5. B. Simpson

    Limbaugh is not the voice of Americia. He is a drug addict that voices hate of the far right. Everyone should say "enough"!

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  6. Felicia

    Finally steele setting it straight, because the whites do not reconize him as their leader.

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  7. Democrat turning Republican

    I listed to most of Rush's speech and I actually agreed with most of what he had to say. We're going to be so far in debt we'll never get out with Obama/Pelosi/Reid running the government. I'm not really excited about the Republican choices for President in 2012. But I think with the Democrats leadshership it won't be hard for the Republican to get the Presidency in 2012. This spending lead by Obama/Pelosi/Reid had got to stop, otherwise we'll be back up a Republican leadship in 2012.

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  8. daisy

    This is a game of big business Rush L and it running us. Its the clash of the titan's. Its us breaking away from money greed and big business running our government.

    the conservative people like its government living by rules and its laws
    able to enforce our laws has been cripling by our big business corrupted ones and it shows

    I believe in letting it all fall and restarting without it controlling us some are tempted by the almighty dollar to turn to the ones who have the power they do not our backbone of this country our president and his rule for the people by the people and not Rush's big business buddies whom support his habits good or bad.

    We the people stand by our president to enforce the rules totally for the good of man and not big business.

    So we hurt but in our days when men really had to fight for our freedom it was a sacrifice Its big business who has the hold on us now and thats wrong ...........

    March 2, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  9. Denise in Baltimore

    As a Democrat I am keenly aware that all that is being done to recover our economy, and the opposition response to those efforts, is based on both political and philosophical differences that tend to move to the extreme. That is to be expected. But the "ugliness" Mr. Steele is referrring to is not just a product of Mr. Limbaugh, although he does it so well. There is a definitive "we" and "them" approach to politics on the Republican side that makes it difficult for someone like me who believes in being fiscally conservative and personally responsible to fit in. I have difficulty with the underlying perception that everyone who is not able to succeed in America doesn't try hard enough, is lazy, not smart enough, or is just looking for a free ride. That kind of generalization is what is "ugly" about Rush's perspective which he spews on national radio on a daily basis, going way beyond entertainment. So Mr. Steele, if you plan to fight for your right to lead the Republican party you better get ready for a brawl, because Rush will not stop until he convinces everyone that the government (Obama) is their enemy.

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. You're Kidding, Right?

    Obviously, Chairman Steele does not know the definition of "De Facto" when he says that he, rather than Limbaugh, is "the de facto leader of the Republican Party."

    DE FACTO -noun, in fact; in reality: actually existing, esp. when without lawful authority.

    So Chairman Steele is illegitimate?!? THAT'S FUNNY!

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  11. Geraldine

    What a hateful bunch they are. Hope they lose more seats.

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  12. Sensible Lefty in Texas

    What? A morbidly-obese, thrice-divorced drug-addicted racist making ugly comments? No way!

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  13. scott_mich

    Good luck taking back this party, Mr Steele! Rush Limbaugh is an idiot but HE IS A LOUD IDIOT!

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Dazed In Seattle

    @ Audrey:

    You are looking for anything to be wrong with this administration. Admit that you are just another hypocrit calling for Obama to fail. He has been in office under 2 months and people like you are already trying to tap him as a person who can't make his own decisions. Have you ready the complete proposal? I dbout it. So, until then keep your ridiculous comments to yourself. You Republicans are way out of touch. Go listen to Limbaugh and take notes on how to hate.... IDIOTS!!!!Do you even own a small business?

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Ed

    Out of the frying pan and into the fire... I'm not sure which one's worse.

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. hillbilly

    Everyone knows what eight years under an alcohlic named Bush did to this party, now they are being lead by a self proclaimed drug addict. I suggest you guys find someone sober to lead.............

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

    It's obvious that Rush's comments struck a nerve and the Democrats are cowering. He has them on the ropes. They're not doing themselves any favors, either...their constant in-fighting, Obama's disappointing first month or so (gross miscalculations on his appointments, a travesty of a "stimulus" package, etc.) are also taking their toll. I hope the Democrats enjoyed their time in the sun while they's looking to be very short-lived.

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Richard

    The only disgrace to Americans, Mr. Dude of the Truth, is people like you that seem not to be able to understand the English language. I believe what Mr. Limbaugh said was, He hoped Mr. Obama's policies failed because he can see where they are leading America. Please engage your brain before you speak. It only shows just how bad our school system really is.

    March 2, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  19. ret

    The Republican Party has no leader. That is their main problem.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  20. Rich in Seattle

    Oh oh, looks like someone is going to have to go on Rush's show to apologise to him.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  21. lou

    Steele is doing the right thing by disclaiming Limbaugh. Limbaugh may say things that rally conservatives, but he also says and does lots of things that are purely infotainment devices. He can be a bit of a shock-pundit (like Coulter). I think Steele will be great for the party, but he won't be if he let's Limbaugh or other shock-pundits speak for everyone. That is Steele's job alone.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  22. gl, Pittsburgh

    Steele says he is the leader of the GOP.

    Yes, in his delusional mind he is! Didn't even hear his name mention. What a fool Steele is to believe he is the GOP leader.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  23. kayla

    chucky cheese, the minute you have to defend who rules the gop, makes you look guilty. YOU KNOW DARN WELL, RUSH RULES THE GOP. HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE.?

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  24. Kris

    Who is Michael Steele anyway?

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  25. Mac in Denver

    People!! Limbaugh's shtick is stirring the pot. Too many of you take him way too seriously. That said, Steele is about as much the leader of the headless GOP as I am.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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