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. Tyran

    He's too smart of a man (with too good of intentions) to lead a party that seems to value Sarah Palin, Joe The Plumber, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh's hated and ignorance over Michael Steele's conservative intellect. The Republican party needs to disavow themselves from the right-wing, undercover racist/ethnocentrist, neo-facists, Christian extremists, and return back to the party of fiscal responsibility/small government. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH GOP!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  2. Maxwell in Croton

    Good for Steele .. at least the man has a spin. There are few folks in the political spotlight more absorbed with greed and self interest than Rush Limbaugh.

    He is bad for conservatives and he is bad for the nation. Why was he silent when President Reagan and George W Bush ballooned the US deficit to 11 trillion? Very convenient time to become fiscally responsible.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  3. gogoobama

    Steele is..........being used. I would hope he would know that, oh well.
    Obama is the real thing. the real man, the real family example, the real USA leader. God bless America and the first family and the white house team. Just watch and do what you can in your own community to help folk. You will be blessed.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  4. randy

    What could be more un-American than saying you hope your own President fails during troubled times such as these?

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. Mark

    Looks like "Operation: Chaos" has found itself in the GOP leadership. Oh the irony!

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. kelly

    LImbaugh and Coulter are irresponsible as are a lot of other political figures. Their comments will shore up the Republican base and will also serve to "educate" those who don't have time or are too lazy to seek real education in political matters. But, I think the reality is that many moderate Republican, like me, are moving on. The dramatic proclamations no longer get my attention the way the used to. Since I've taken time to learn independently I have finally seen how Limbaugh's comments are destructive and don't benefit the country in any way. They are extreme and serve to incite his listeners will irrational propaganda. They are very effective in that manner. But, I also think there are enough of us who have had enough that if he remains one of the most vocal members of the Republican Party, they will continue to suffer.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. ronnyg

    "...Democrats know they lose an argument with the Republican Party on substance."

    Yeah, the Democrats have been losing substance arguments with Republicans real badly lately, huh?

    That whole Republican party is full of goose-steppers who all are afraid to speak their minds; Limbaugh is their Fuhrer and anyone, like Steele, who speaks out against Limbaugh comes back the next day and backs off of their comments.

    Fine by me; let's see how Limbaugh's party fares when the economy picks up. I smell a third party coming up and throwing the republicans into third place in the next decade. Losers in 2006, big losers in 2008, all-but-gone in 2010.

    You can all continue to foam at the mouth and prepare for your padded cells.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  8. Dee

    Repulicans had 8 years and look what they have done !!! I think they all lost there right to say anything. Rush is the one trying to put FEAR in every one.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  9. Needs to go

    I agree with Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele in taking issue with the notion that Rush Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP.

    I really do not know how anyone could call Limbaugh a conservative radio talk show host. As an entertainer whose comments can be more than ugly, they can be outright evil. Limbaugh’s remarks, statements and claims are geared more towards stirring up issues and misinformation. He tends to twist words to get the desired effect of the agitator standing behind the big guy in a bar room fight. His message is negative and he paints everything black or dark gray his message is that of an angry man who has been given a soapbox and a megaphone. Loud and, ugly .the rants of a power hungry little man. Who given the chance would divide not only the parties but the nation itself with his spewing of hideous propaganda. He is after all just a paid entertainer and should be put back in his place or shut down for the good of our nation.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Larry

    Rush Limbaugh should have an audience of 50 million.....those of you who have listened to his opinions surely should....He is dead on regarding the nation....Stand on your own 2 feet and go to work...those who sit back and take take take....your the problem...Capitalism is what our country is based on and it works....NO to socialism.....Rush reflects millions of Americans values.....

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  11. belly

    Rush tells the truth, some people (most democrats) can't handle the truth. I try to make my political decisions based on getting both sides of the story. I wonder how many people who voted for Obama did, other than basing their decidion on what the see on SNL, Comedy Central or because 'my friends did and it seemed like the cool thing to do.' If you fit in that category you should be not only ashamed of your self but be very, very afraid 'cause the worst is yot to come and IT WILL affect you in a way you won't like. Good luck to all the slackers that can't do anything for themselves. Get a job, and while you're at it get a life and do your homework.

    March 2, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  12. former republican

    People like Rush Limbaugh are going to keep driving others away from the GOP in droves!

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  13. Don Woolsey

    Steele is a pansy. and Obama is not our leader he is our president, he works for us he does not lead us. If you want a leader Noth Korea would be glad to take you Mr. Dude of Truth.

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  14. Taryn

    Rush has been all up in arms lately! I don't know if it's because we have a democrat as a president, or because he can't get a hold of any narcotics!

    And Audrey! Stop blaming Obama for everything. You're oh-so-precious republicans are trying to make sure you don't save a DIME of money. The less money that comes out of your pocket is less IN theirs.....If it were completely up to him I'm sure there would be more tax cuts. Some of you are so naive to think that republicans actually care about the people. They care about the money!!!!!!!!

    **the "moderator" may not post THIS comment. But it sure didn't have a problem posting the racist comment someone made about Obama playing basketball***

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  15. confused

    Let me get that straight here: Rush whant's Obama tofail? that what he said right? and the republican party gave him aplause and agree with him? they either don't get that if Obama fails we fail? or they don't mind if this country fails? either way is that what this party became to represend? are they expecting people to vote for them after they said they whant us to fail? how come nobody makes them answer for this remarks? if a democrate said that you would see people crying out traitor in a heartbeat. I get Rush is a dopehead but if the republican party puts him out as there spokeperson they also resonisble for his action. I know if anybody had said they wanted Bush to fail in Iraq they would have been called on it. The republican party whants this country to fail I am shocked

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |

    "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,"

    IS HE "SERIOUS"..... Rahm Emanuel and the Democrats are in office because they WON the argument against the Republican party on substance...

    Republicans are the only people in the universe who can literally argue that water is dry, ice is warm, and fire is cold.

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. wingnuts

    fruitcakes all

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. donna

    Audrey..please read your post before you submit...."had the his"??? c'mon....

    I'm sure Steele will be apologizing and backtracking on his comments..he doesn't want Rush mad at

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. kelly

    Audrey–Obama didn't write the Stimulus package.

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  20. Rick

    the wrong person is in charge, what is needed is someone who is outside the main street government network of status quo before you will be able to rebuild the republican party, what is it that the republicans dont understand about the people

    March 2, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  21. dr.mimi de la cruz

    AAAAAAHHH !!!!






    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  22. JD

    I'll take Limbaugh's straight talk over Steele's mealy-mouthed snugglefest with the Obama liberals any day.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  23. TRUTH

    Democrats run this country now. Republicans need to come up with real policies that help America instead of trying to bring Democrats down. You can hate Obama all you want, but at least he's trying to make a difference for America. All you hear from Republicans is smack talk

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  24. rob

    The liberals will love this but his comments were before Rush's speech. I'm sure very few people will listen to Rush's whole speech for context. I think Steele's comments were unfortunate, he should know that it will be used against him, Rush, and all republicans.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  25. Mozi

    Rush Limbaugh is a traitor to The United States. If he had spouted his anti-American diatribe when America was newly born, he would have been taken behind the barn and shot. Free speech aside, one does not wish the ruination of the Supreme Commander.

    While I hated "Bushonomics" as much as the next Democrat, and while I blame the state of our country on the Bush family's oil greed, I would never have wanted our President to fail. When our President fails, we as a country fail too.

    Rush is an addict. And now it would seem he's addicted to hate and malice.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
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