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. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Ann Coulter and Rash Limpballs have been saying lots, but offer absolutely no help, except for themselves.

    The only ones who take them seriously is the base, and they almost worship them. Hatred and divisiveness, are their trademarks.

    On a humorous note, I googled "THE BASE", Wikipedia refers to it as Al Qaeda...
    Al-Qaeda, alternatively spelled al-Qaida and sometimes al-Qa'ida, (Arabic: القاعدة‎; al-qāʿidah; translation: The Base)

    CNN...This is true, so don't delete

    March 2, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. Vinh

    Eventually the Republicans will take their party back from the talk show hosts and only then will they succeed. They need to redefine who they are and I think Steele could possibly be the right man for the job. Only time will tell.

    March 2, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. ByeByeRepugs

    Oh how fun to watch them eat their own!!!
    America finally woke up. Adieu GOP.

    March 2, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Rick

    Limbaugh is just another cheerleader for the sorest of losers. You can find plenty more just like him leading any number of equally ignorant hate groups. Might as well just laugh, it's more fun and productive.

    March 2, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. GALEN

    Hope that the President of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
    fails. I would hope no one would think that any President
    Of the USA, no matter democrat or republican would FAIL.
    This to me is really wrong. WHAT NEXT?



    March 2, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  6. Gorbashov - Long Beach, Ca.

    Oh-no someone didn't get the memo.

    Look for another public apology at the alter of Rush just like the Georgia Congressman that was recently castrated on said alter!

    What a pathetic state of affairs the Repubilcan party is in!

    Lincoln is turning over in his grave!

    March 2, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  7. g.j man

    Go Rush! You are smarter then all the dems put together and the repubs. Poor Dems dont like talk radio because then people will know the truth. Ya see Dems your truth comes from hollywood its like a pretty movie and a happy ending. The problem with it is its a fantasy not reality. When you finally wake up the monster in your closet wont be rush it will be yourselves.

    March 2, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Tom


    You need to read more. 95% of all small businesses make under $250,000 a year and all of them are getting tax cuts. As for pork, there is actually very little in the bill, certainly a trifle by comparison to the last eight years under Republican leadership and a president who never vetoed a spending bill and turned a record surplus into a record deficit. Had the republicans been even mildly responsible fiscally, Obama might have had some money to deal with the horrendous problems he has been handed by the outgoing administration. No wonder the republicans want him to fail- any progress at all will make them look criminally incompetent.

    March 2, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Jim

    Steele is on the leash of Scarecrow and Mr. Lush er Rush...

    God I hope the GOP keeps this up for the next 2 years, then the Democrats will have super-majorities in both houses.

    GOP = Goose stepping koolaide drinking robots who let Rush and Scarecrow Annie do all their thinking and talking.

    I love it.

    Keep thinking your did the right thing for the last 8 years – eating your own dead is your idea of new thinking...

    March 2, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  10. Former Republican

    Limbaugh is disgusting. End of story!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  11. Sean

    Well.....that's the end of Steele career! The Rove/Coulter/Limbaugh/Hannity group will eat him alive for talking about their GREAT one. And Audrey, you need a wake up. You have been listening to Rush way to long.

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  12. cmc

    agree with "had it". Maybe they should have inviewed Steele after Rush's inflammatory comments. I doubt that anyone runs the RNC.. They each feed off each other, as said on "the view" this am, if they think Obama is so bad, where is "THEIR PLAN"? OH that's right, according to "Rush" it is TAX CUTS, that is their plan.....

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  13. Captain America

    YES!! I hope Limbaugh and Mr. "off the hook" Steele start publicly attacking each other and add to the divisions within the party. Oh please please please GOP keep on lining up that firing squad in a circle! Then maybe the Dems will have time to fix the monumental MESS your crappy little corporatist party have made of this country.

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  14. Dee G. - CT Voter

    Tell Limbaugh along with all the other repukelicans to sit down and shut up!

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  15. Adrienne1001

    Dude: He hopes OUR leader and his policies fail. And so do I.

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Russell Gray

    Truth Hurts doesn't it? Wake up you liberals...Your leftist agenda's are going to soon totally backfire on you...And you can blame Pelosi, Obama, and everyone else but YOU voted for Obama...Thankfully, I'm a conservative Republican and live like one...Your mess is on your heads.

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. tm

    Rush - just another drug addict.

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  18. CJ/PA

    Good luck, Michael Steele. I hope you don't come on with a slobbering apology after Rush and his minions "get to you." Oh, if only he were just an entertainer. There is nothing entertaining about his vitriole, hatred and intolerance, and unfortunately, there are many right wing extremeists who listen to what he says, which can be very dangerous! He has no other qualifications than his big mouth, his huge ego, and his fat wallet, thanks to his puppet followers We'll see if you can be the de facto leader, or if you will be toppled by the "Rush-ions!!!" He and his ilk are scary, indeed!

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  19. Gordon Mason

    Ugly comments, but unfortunately, TRUE!!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Thomas

    dude of truth, did you actually hear his comments? I highly doubt it. They have been taken completely out of context. He repeatedly said in the speech that he hope America succeeds and that he would want Obama to succeed if he agreed with his policies, but he does not want him to succeed in a socialist agenda. Whether you agree that Obama has such an agenda or not is irrelevant. Indeed, I would hope you would want any president with a socialist agenda to fail. I certainly would and I'm not afraid to say it.

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. James A.

    How many of you Republicans are taking your marching orders from Rush Limbaugh? I am relieved to see that it is not 100% of you. I don’t think anyone should underestimate the pull this man has on conservative politics – the White House has obviously recognized this. Keeping in mind that Rush Limbaugh is not an elected law maker and cannot be voted out of office if we are tiered of him, you Republicans need to be vigilant and proactive against the manipulation and intimidation he apparently has over some of you, and tell him “thanks, but no thanks”, when it is appropriate. What Rush Limbaugh is doing is beginning to border on outright Sedition – Yeah – not good.

    On a lighter note, I was pleased to see that Mitt Romney won your Straw Poll. He is clearly the best choice to front in 2012.

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. Dave in Oregon

    Time to "take it to the mat"! We are all Americans with different points of view on problems and solutions. It it time that we apply our intellect and articulate solutions to problems to our full capacity. This will provide the basis for constructive dialoge, greater education of the views of others and evenutually constructive action by government. It is time to get away from describing views based upon partisian divisions. Affiliating with specific sides is "gang" mentality and not constructive in achieving rationale action. We need our national leaders to take a role in this, provide specifics on solutions, debate and justify actions and avoid speaches with "glittering generalities" which give us nothing to aide in our confidence and understanding.

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  23. Alex

    Despite the fact that SOME of the things Rush Limbaugh says may be true, this is a case where the Messenger ruins the entire overall message. To me and as a Republican, I would NEVER want Limbaugh speaking for me or my conservative beliefs. I can't think of a more devisive, destructive and useless spokesman for Republicans than Rush Limbaugh. I find him dellusional, crude and nothing short of a "shock jock" whose in love with himself. Until REAL Republican leaders step forward, this man will continue to undermine any good the Republicans can make happen in our society. Go away Rush.......we don't want or need you!

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  24. Peter (CA)

    If Michael Steele sticks to this position, then he will go up 1000 pts. in my estimation. right wingers really need to get a grip. Obama runs the show. He just knows that you sometimes have to compromise to get something done. Your guys never learned that which is why we are here now.

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  25. Ken from missouri

    I'd bet that he had to call rush to find out he could say that .

    March 2, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
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