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. GA Girl

    You people, including Michael Steele, have a problem with reality. I think Michael Steele will do a good job as RNC Chairman. However, it appears he also feels threatened by "the truth". You may not like and even disagree with Limbaugh, but he was right on track with his comments to CPAC Saturday. Somebody's got to say it and Rush isn't afraid to do it!

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

    Democrats just hate people who can think for themselves.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Cue the angry legions of Limbaugh fans calling into Steele's office forcing a retraction in 3...2...1...

    Audrey, have you read through every page to know of everything that's in the stimulus? No?

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    Keep telling yourself that Mr. McToken. Meanwhile, your minions are all over the internet and elsewhere regurgitating Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter and O'Reilly's filthy, spiteful, hateful and baseless drivel. If the GOP really REALLY wants to make a statement about its willingness to change and adapt and come to the table with new ideas and a constructive attitude, the first step would be to tell your mouthpieces to STFU.

    @ Audrey

    You do understand that Obama does not write legislation, only proposes it and then gets stuck with whatever Congress came up with, don't you? There was no way he could've gotten away with vetoing whatever they handed him for the stimulus package. Vetoing that legislation would have been a horrifying debacle after so much back-and-forth and negotiation between the reps and senators who were willing to play ball and weren't just going to say "No" unless it was 100% tax cuts.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  5. Glenn

    Why is it that we spent TRILLIONS to rebuild the infrastructure and create jobs in Iraq and stabilize theri economy with US tax dollars (not getting into how successful is has or has not been) with our tax dollars it is considered "good policy" but to create jobs and stabilize OUR economy in AMERICA for AMERICANS and rebuild our infrastructure, it is irresponsible and labeled "socialism?"
    The difference is that the previous administration was hiding this cost from us, and we can see the cost of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, which has become necessary because of the war and greed, from Wall Street to the Whitehouse in the past.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  6. Make Believe

    The Republicans are just trying to counter the Dems and Obama with some other than white race leaders. The Republicans are pushings people like Steele and Jindal out in the open just to try and make voters think they are an inclusive party. But who would want to belong to the same party as Rush Limbaugh? People who are not really inclusive at all.

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  7. GenTwelve

    Limbaugh is just as vulagr and repulsive as the politicians in Washington, both democractic and republican.

    The difference is that I CAN CHOOSE to ignore Limbaugh and not contibute to his wealth!

    Washington just keeps on taking.........

    March 2, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  8. 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 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  9. Russell


    Half of the stimulus package is tax cuts. Did you read any of it before you started screaming "Puppet"? Steele vs. Limbaugh is a battle between the centrist Republicans that most people would agree with and the far right wing ideologues who have wrested control for the last 15 years. I hope Mr. Steele can gain control over the party leadership and give the GOP a credible opposing viewpoint again.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  10. abraxis

    You all know that Limbaugh and Coulter are the 2112 ticket for the Republicans. Whatever they have said have to be true or else they wouldn't say it.

    Can't wait until 2112!

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. Gallimimus

    This is indicative of how bad off the GOP is right now. Their should not even be any discussion about how a pompous blowhard (Rush) is leading the party. He should not even be in a leadership discussion about the GOP. Since he is considered the de facto leader in the GOP, it shows us how bad it really is for the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. ann morse

    they are very ugly...he should be taken off the air...he is nothing but a drug addict

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  13. Casey

    I like how Steele said he was the "defacto" head of the republican party. Am I confused? I thought he was supposed to be the "official" head of the republican party? Perhaps he's till wrestling with Rush's power. Maybe when they're done with thier match they can tell us who won.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Dan

    Ever notice how these stupid "tickers" are all set up as anti-Republican stories that liberal wackos can rail against to their hearts content?

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. Monty

    If the Republican party wants to remain a force in US politics, its mainstream needs to stand up and be counted. Moderate Republicans need to get the nut jobs like Rush and Ann Coulter off the air and let America know what the Republican party really stands for, surely its not the unabashed hatred and bigoted view points and intolerance for anyone with a differing view point that the far right preach. The very things Limbaugh and Coulter espouse are so anti-American its laughable that they claim to represent America's best interest.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  16. BK

    I'm glad that Steele had the guts to stand up against Limbaugh and his hateful rhetoric; for that he deserves the respect of both sides.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. Willy G

    I hope Mr.Steele had Rush's permission to say these things.

    Otherwise Michael might get into trouble.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  18. Patrick

    Great to hear a Republican who has the backbone to stand up to the poisonous bully Limbaugh. That is exactly what Rush is. A Republican bully and the cancer of the heart of the Republican party.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  19. Tyrone

    I say we do what George Carlin wanted to do with society's so-called nutjobs. I say we box off a rectangular state like "Wyoming", make sure Cheney is there when we do it and put all the Limbaughs and Coulters and Conants and any RepubliCANT who follows their whacky ideology, inside it with 50 foot high fences all around the border. Then we put a giant tarp over the fence to block out the sun so that its always dark and gloomy there. Oooh wait, but first we have to build the "Legion of Doom" HQ and import some swampland for Louisiana so that can be their bully pulpit to preach all their hate all they want, 365 days a year into perputuity.

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. eric the blue

    If you get your "news" from faux or rush you are as anti American as you can get. Love It or................Leave It!

    March 2, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. mexbam

    Please keep talking Rush. The Democratic party loves you and your ilk. Keep up the hate,and divisive talk and we will have Democrats and Independants galore elected because only your most base Republicans like what you have to say. The rest of us want to heal our country.

    Base=the lowest part,the bottom

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  22. me in md

    Audrey is proof that Rush is leading the party. She is repeating his talking points. Rush is the leader of the party not Steele. HAHA!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  23. Al

    Poor Michael, he says that he's the leader of the GOP but will he have to get on all fours like a slave and bow down to Masta Rush an apologize?

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  24. Bill

    It is about time that someone from the Republican Party put Rush Limbaugh in his place. He may certainly be entertaining to a certain idiotic following, he is certainly not a politician. In fact I put him on the same intellectual level as a Jessie Jackson or Earl Shapton. They all stir up more crap than an outboard in a septic tank.

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. definite puppet

    Rush Limbaugh is an idiot. plain and simple.

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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