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. Virginia Blue Statesman

    Uh Oh, better apologize quickly to Limbarf as quick as you can Steele or he'll take you behind the shed.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  2. Marty, FL

    If Steele was supposed to be the leader of the Republican Party, why was Limbaugh giving the keynote speech at CPAC? Rush does not exactly seem a straw man with that type of Republican recognition.

    If the RNC does not want Limbaugh as the de facto leader, they seem to be doing little to change it. In fact, they appear to be following his nonsensical & hypocritical rhetoric (ex. "socialist" fear-mongering). That would hardly seem substance for a Republican NO Party lacking in new ideas these days.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  3. jsm63

    One of the best definitions for leadership is attributed to Fred Smith, CEO of FedEx; "Leadership is influence." Simple and to the point. Michael Steele might have the position, but the Republicans are listening to, and following, Rush Limbaugh. A person is only leading if someone is following them...

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  4. Living in the USA

    Take back the country. Doesn't that sound like a terrorist threat? If that was Minister Farrakhan making that same statement to black folks Rush/Sean will be all over it. Steele better gives Watts a 3:am call.

    March 2, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  5. Andres Guevara

    In two days, Steele will go crawling for forgiveness to Limbaugh like every other Republican who stands up to him. Rush leads the party and that spells great news for Democrats.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  6. The Voice

    Finally a Republican says something real and correct. Limbaugh is the Rosie of the Republicans. Limbaugh is vindictive, divisive and wants America to fail.

    So much for conservative patriotism.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  7. Mark Mann

    please remove my last name from my comment.
    Otherwise, please run in full if possible.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. john

    Its best that your enemies fight each other. Good job Rahm!!

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  9. Tom

    I don't think so – your party has long been hijacked by the likes of coulter, dumbo – I mean rush and nut jobs like palin. Go luck to you – frankly I would leave them waht is left to of the rep party and go start something new

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  10. Andi

    I watched this interview last night. DL kept asking Steele questions and Steele just kept babbling on and on about nothing, never answering the questions. I loved it when he said he was from the 'projects' and DL and his other guest forced him to admit he didn't live in the 'projects', but a Black neighborhood.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  11. Sandra, Washington

    DREAM ON BUD !!!!



    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. Brian Feist

    Republicans have no problem spending a couple of TRILLION dollars and thousands of our sons and daughters lives on warfare that benefits no one but expanding corporate interest that continually send our jobs over seas. Democrats have the "audacity" to suggest that we shift some of that spending towards our own people and build future infrastructure that puts America back on top in a way that does not strain international relations and waste the lives of young Americans. It is time for the "old money" to sacrifice for the future of our countries prosperity. For the sake of all that is sacred, show some honor.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  13. thea

    Rashi boy ,how can you say you love poeple ,when in reality you only love your self and say things which do not make any sence what so ever.
    Since Rosevelt ,when he started with social security checks we are a socialist country .
    what is wrong with that ????????????
    Also remember before you open your big mouth ,that the republicans left Obama with this mess .
    GOING INTO IRAK ,WAS abselutly insane and criminal .
    Irak never did anything to us ,but the media is socrooket that we believe almost anything .
    I go to bbs or china news ,they bring the what is realy going on .
    Who put Obama into the white house ??NBC,CNBC ,MSNBC, ABC ?

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  14. america first

    Everything about rush limbaugh is UGLY, and so is everything about the republican party.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. Staunch Democrat


    I've had it too!

    Michael Steele and the rest of the GOP are Rush Limbaugh's puppets. The GOP's answer is to do nothing which is guaranteed to fail 100%.

    Former President Bush was Dick Cheney's puppet. Where was the outrage then?

    See, it works both ways. Time for you to get on board or join the Taliban and join them in their wish for Obama to fail.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  16. Dante

    Mr Steele is delusional. The blatant race pandering is another example of Republicans being lost in the wilderness.If Republicans don't stop trotting out their handful of minorities like show ponies they will continue to slide into irrelevance. The voters are not as stupid as the republicans think. There hasn't been a real minority voice on the national scene since J.C. watts and now we have Steele and jindal since the election, looks like maybe they do support affirmative action . Mr. Steele you are so ineffective you are being drowned out by Limbaugh,Coulter and Hannity entertainers for Gods sake. These people make millions of dollars keeping the weakest members of the party in line. The truth is they know they are entertainers but the sheep don't . These entertainers well paid voices of opposition, the problem is they are so tribal they fight for the sake of fighting. They offer no alternative solutions or even ideas. The Republican party in my lifetime was always been known as the party of greed . The ideas were always grounded on whats in it for me not necessarily whats good for the country. Now that the crazy talk show hosts have taken over the party it seems to be the party of greed and hate. I don't believe the American public as a whole is hateful and greedy but the Republicans seem to feel that they are and I guess that is why they are trying to appeal to the darkest part of humanity to return to power.We need both parties in my to make this country great again Both parties at their best serve the country well. We are in very difficult times and need our leaders working for the will of the people not the next election. One final thought, if the republican believe that tax cuts are the magic elixir for the economy they must stop protecting the huge corporations that sent our jobs overseas in the first place.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. robinmarie

    Obama is no one's may be hard to recognize a independent thinker when you see it because you have seen it in your lifetime. But he is the real deal and let him work.

    March 2, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Chrissy

    I find it funny that Rush Limbaugh is being considered the voice for Conservative America. What about Mr. Limbaugh's lifestyle is in-line with conservative beliefs? Is it the Oxy Contin, the unprescribed Viagra on his way to the Dominican Republic, his many marriages, his family values? As a conservative, I am appalled by the notion Rush is considered our representative, and worse, that many are buying what he sells. If this is the best we can do folks– we are in big trouble.

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Rederick Neckerson

    I take issue with Limbaugh wanting the stimulus package to fail. In the 8 previous years that the republicans were in power they pushed the idea that if you disagreed with them you couldn't possibly be a Patriot. And now we have their defacto leader basically wishing our country to fail. How unpatriotic is that?

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Debi

    The Republicans should probably decide on a leader and learn to read the bill they are criticizing as socialism.

    Their hatred was unappealing in November and is less appealing as they loose ground as a creditable party. I would like to hear ideas.

    This party worships the ground Reagan walks on and has decided on no new ideas since. They forget that the world is no longer stuck in the 1980s. We have computers in almost every home.... we can do our own research and do not have to listen to what was the only three news stations from the 80s.

    Audrey: Remember that bridge in Minnesota that collapsed and killed around 180 people..... that is where money for infrastructure is needed. I bet many of the people killed (and their families) would have gladly applauded "pork spending on infrastructure". Unfortunately, the money instead went to a corrupt Alaskan Senator's pork bridge.

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  21. Alfred Burnett

    I consider myself as an Independent, I get scared of people like
    Limbaugh Rove Coulter, can't they see they are a turn off. They called the President policies Socialism , but if they know what they are talking about, you can have a Capitalist economic system , that uses Socialistic economic principles to accomplish it's economic objectives,also you can have a Socialistic economic system that uses Capitalistic economic principles to accomplish it economic objectives, case in point China.

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  22. D Jemming

    Limbaugh has diahrrea of the mouth and constipation of ideas!

    Bring in the clowns!

    If he leads the Republicans the Democrats have nothinig to fear in 2012

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. Sheriff Dewey

    Hahahahahahahaha! This guy is hilarious! Hey Steele – you do be DA MAN!

    March 2, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  24. ernaE

    Oh, what a sorry story. Limbaugh will go on spewing his hatred, a real KKK-man. The first known terrorists KKK, the churchburners,, houseburners, Limbaugh forgot that? He wants the country back, he forgot that his forefathers STOLE the country from native americans? What is this man talking? Who is this moron? Move on old man!!! You can't go back in time, the world is changing every day. That's what make europeans bigger than you. Their education is better it grew with time. Their school buildings are better just look at the infrastructure, no crumbling buildings, good bridges, very good roads, trustworthy public transportation. The USA is a big and good country, people like Limbaugh do disgrace to that nation, SHAME ON YOU LIMBAUGH

    March 2, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  25. Markis

    Wow the Republican Party is now a permanent minority. Clearly a party of irresponsibilty. No matter who is in Power on Capital Hill no partisan differences should impact our country. If the Conservatives choose this bickering they will be voted out again.

    March 2, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
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