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. Kansan

    Rush is a pompas idiot of epic proportions. He has no grasp of reality or any clue of the average U.S. citizen. He spews hatred & elitism and doesn't have one ounce of intelligent thought.

    March 2, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  2. Carol

    Isn't Rush originally from Canada, why don't he go back to Canada? Maybe it's because he's been banned from Canada, I can't blame them for not wanting him in their country. He's evil and a disgrace to the human race! Crawl back under your extra large rock Rush Limbaugh and take your evil worshippers with you.

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  3. Cap'n Rrrrrr

    Hey "the dude of truth", sounds like you spew hate against anybody that doesn't agree with you or your liberal puke point of view.

    The first amendment guarantees our freedom of speech. Too bad if you socialists don't like it.

    Oh and by the way, if you can't see that President Hussein is a socialist, then you need a big reality check. Pelosi's pulling his strings, big-time.

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Jack in Florida

    Then you better put a muzzle on your mouth piece.........

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. lola Planner, Houston, Texas


    who got us in this mess in the first place. Don't forget that Clinton left a huge budgetary surplus when Bush took office. What happened to fiscal conservatism? The Republicans have seriously lost their way and now take their cues from the religious right. Honestly, let's get back to the true Republican party that knew how to keep this country secure and financially in the black. Geez, aren't you tired of all the finger pointing back and fourth. That's all Republicans know how to do nowadays. Your answer is a Pelosi puppet? How constructive of you!

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Daniel, Atlanta, GA, ex-republican

    Mr. Steele,

    I saw your interview with D.L. Hughley and thought you were a very nice guy. Unfortunately, it did not seem that you were convinced that the GOP is capable of "inclusion" of nonwhite minorities. D.L. and the other gentleman both seemed to be in disbelief and challenged your beliefs that the GOP really wanted change and wanted to include a broader segment of the US population. Truth be told, if the GOP wasn't faced with two losses in the previous elections and if they weren't challenged with Obama's win based on how the demographics have shifted in this country, you wouldn't have been invited to chair the RNC. The GOP is not happy to include anyone outside of their comfort zone, but they have had no choice and so they use you as their PR guy. Mr. Steele, you tried very hard to defend yourself and defend the GOP/RNC with D.L, but they weren't convinced and neither is the rest of the country. RUSH is not going to let you lead the GOP! Rove and Coulter are just as racist as Rush, so you may be "good intentioned" but you are in a state of denial.

    Mr. Steele, give it up; RUSH is the GOD of the GOP!

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Centrist from the West coast

    I don't think the economic issues are quite the Apocalypse we hear about, but things are also not all Beer and Roses like we hear on the other side of the playing field.

    I think that due to the overall perception, big and bold moves are necessary to counter that perception, however.

    In the end, we are faced with a choice between considering the plans of the party who's been warning about the current economic struggle for the past few years or the party that continues to keep their heads planted firmly in the sand, denying that there is a problem at all.

    It seems fairly clear that if things weren't allowed (or encouraged) to go as far as they have, such drastic measures would neither be necessary nor possible.

    So if you don't like Pelosi's agenda, just remember that the previous one's existence made it happen.

    If you want to stop the dramatic swings of the political pendulum, take a closer look where the two parties begin to cross, and you'll see that taking a more moderate and balanced approach to government is not in fact "weak" or "indecisive" as the extremists would have you believe, but is actually a more stable and structured philosophy to move the entire nation forward.

    Or, just go ahead and continue to screech at each other. Your call.

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. Good for Steele

    It's nice to Steele is taking a hard line against Limbaugh.

    It seems like he's the only one in the party who realizes that Limbaugh and Coulter had a lot to do with the Republicans being thrown out of both Congress chambers and the White House lat November.

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  9. TRUTH

    Im glad that America is a country where we are allowed to have different views of things. So I don't hate or despise Republicans. But I'm sick of Republicans always trying to bash someone. for 8 years the Republican party had their chance to lead this country and make a positive difference. They blew that chance, and now i can care less what the Republicans have to say. Rush Limbaugh is clearly a racist who wants Obama to fail. Im not saying that he wants Obama to fail because Obama's black, but Limbaugh has clearly made racist jokes in the past. Why do people take this man seriously? He is the face of the Republican party, which makes the republican party even more pathetic. Why cant they have an actual politician lead the party instead of an entertainer? Oh how the republican party have fallen. If the stimulus plan works and Obama is successful, i bet the republican party will not win another election for decades.

    March 2, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  10. DT

    The GOP, and the brand of irresponsible capitalism, is a far bigger threat to personal liberties than the democrats. The GOP is the party of getting the rich richer wich only results in all non rich either turning poor and the poor getting poorer. The tax breaks for the rich have been spent sending our jobs overseas. The GOP, since Nixon, have skated on "Law and Order" policies that have resulted in money flushed down the drain in petty morality wars and a skyrocketing convict population. By the Way, Rush, us libs have been calling you the leader of the GOP for years, and not in a good way.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  11. Paul Cooper

    Relax Mr. Steele. You should be asking yourself who said this, rather than responding to it. Do you really believe they speak for the party faithful?

    Meanwhile, what are YOU doing with your leadership other than responding to taunts? You need to be finding a true reformer to run in every election over the next four years; someone truly committed to changing how our system works (or fails to do so) from the bottom up.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  12. Gary delebate

    Rush is a druggie !

    who is fact got caught with his pills , whilst coming back from a trip to the phillepines ... (probably for some underage prositution)

    this guy may be a huge dork., but he at least deserves a chance to not be railroaded by a pill-popping blowhard.

    take it to the next level !.


    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. JT

    Let keep this real. No one has any idea who the leader of the republican party is. On paper, it is Steele. But the conservative people would listen to Limbaugh more then they would Steele. Steele is an very intelligent person that wants the best for the RNC, but I hope he will open his eyes and see that the party is using him as a front and the y would rather follow a neo-nazi type person like Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Mandini

    Rush is the last flickering hope for freedom in the hate filled nightmare Obama has unleashed on this country. For those of us who believe in economic liberty, Rush is the last, best hope for avoiding the necessity of armed conflict in order to protect our families fo the collectivists.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. Kay

    Even a casual observer can see that the GOP is run by LImbaugh.

    If they can swing it they'll probably try to get him to run for President in 2012.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  16. Sy

    The Republican party is completely dominated by the extremist right wing and is headed on the path to ruin. Every time their views are aired it turns off the majority of Americans and shows them as out of touch with the important issues of our times.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  17. Colorado

    Why does anyone take this guy seriously anymore? He's just a pill popping right wing fanatic that's trying to cling on. Nothing he say's is credible and he's just trying to provoke reaction from anyone because he's a nobody!

    Don't go away mad Rush, just go away!

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  18. Geekman

    I'm still not quite sure why Limbaugh gets so much attention. He "claims" an audience of 20 million people for his radio show. It's an impressive sounding number. But even if he has that many devout listeners, if you look at eligible voters (US Census figures place that number at around 217 million) and do the math, Rush has about 9% of eligible voters listening to him. NINE percent! Those are worse approval ratings than Bush had toward the end. The guy's nothing more than a carnival barker with a big megaphone (and an increasingly large head). And he's the hero and spokesperson for the right? Good luck with that!

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  19. R.A. Willis

    Limbaugh is a conservative political commentator. He is often key-on to many points of political differences among the left, right and middle. He is not a politician; he is not running for office. I suggest that the actual far left who are politicians in power do not get the same reaction from the general media when they make incredibly more mean spirited and nasty comments about conservatives, republicans and even Dems who happen to vote with Republicans on occasion. I have yet to hear the base level of attacks from responsible conservatives that we get from the left – unless calling them liberal or even European socialists is considered a base attack. Let him say what he says. Let’s get the Republicans in line to take back the Senate and or the House, without attacking more and less conservatives so we at least have some balance at the national level. Let’s start with a good, fair-minded Republican taking back the Obama seat.

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  20. Ralph

    From "the dude of truth": "Rush is a fool who spews hatred and stagnation and promotes an agenda that hopes are leader fails."

    "the dude of truth" Obviously never listens to Rush, just blindly follows his leftist mentors and occasionally thinks he has an original thought.

    By the way... the word is "our" not "are".

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  21. LCooper

    Limbaugh and Steele that sounds like a good name for a variety show for GOP clowns, baffoons and morons. With first guests being Hannity, Palin and Jindal

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  22. Sriram Koppikar

    Audrey u need to stop watching FOX news and start having a mind of your own. The stimulus package does have tax cuts for small businesses and there are not as many pork projects as the GOP would like you to believe... go to for more info and get enlightened...

    March 2, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  23. Not "Mein Kampf" baby

    You don't mean Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter. What you really mean is Hitler/Goering/Goebbels. And yes, they do lead the party. Here's a few quotes to make my point....

    Hitler... "Propaganda must not serve the truth, especially as it might bring out something favorable for the opponent."

    Goering.... "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

    Goebbels.... "The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly – it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over."

    Interesting conicidences, or has Rush, Ann and Karl been reading Mein Kampf? You decide....

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  24. David

    We as Americans may disagree with or hate what Rush says, but we have the duty to fight for his right to say it.

    On the flip side, a man who complains invariably about the tarnishing of freedom may want to explore his opposition to gay marriage, etc... his hypocrisy is, in fact, what makes him so disgusting.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  25. Anonymous

    Thank goodness we don't have a person like Limbaugh running the country. That would be scary!

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
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