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. tigerakabj

    No Mr. Steele. Your place is to insult President Obama w/o them having to. That is your job. They are not man enough to call what they want to say to Obama's face, so your job is do to that for them as well as put on the front that they are a party of the diverse when they really are not.

    Limbaugh sets the tone and direction for the party, not you.

    Get it Mr. Steele?

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  2. I can see Canada from my house!


    The issue on this post is about the leadership of the Republican Party, NOT the perception that the stimulus package is solely the work of Nancy Pelosi. The fact that election of Michael Steele has not improved the image of the GOP at large is the greater issue, along with the fact that a man who is not accountable to the RNC leadership has more influence that Steele, are the only issues people should be dealing with. Just for the record, the Red states that suck more dollars than they pay into the system will still get their money, only they will be required to account for it. The bill is not perfect, but nothing in life ever is.

    THAT is what article is about: Pay closer attention next time, if you can.

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  3. meron

    Rush does not care about average americans. He cares about himself and make millions of dollar by bashing the democrats who are trying to fix the problem inherited from Bush. These republicans will never get it what majority of americans going thru right now. Where were the ripublican when Bush help greed wall street people and now they have a problem Obama trying to hele average americans. This is redicules.

    March 2, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Diana NJ

    @ had it ..... I agree with you totally..... but Audrey.. your are a fool if you believe anyone runs President Obama but President Obama.. he is his own man, does he want everyone to work together, yes, does he believe in compromise.. Yes... this is not a time to be devisive.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  5. Mississippi Mike

    Michael Steele is the elected leader of the party, Limbaugh is a conservative mouthpiece. The strongest base of the Republican party consists of conservatives so it's easy to see why so many people can knowingly misstate Rush's influence in the party. To say that Limbaugh is the true leader of the Republican party is like saying that Oprah Winfrey is the leader of the Democratic party.

    A scoundrel's last resort in a fight is name-calling, what I want to know is why liberals feel so compelled to continue to attack conservatives. Don't they realize they have almost absolute power in the government right now? If they want to manufacture an enemy, is it wise to start up a media battle with the man who bested Bill Clinton in the nineties? Something doesn't add up.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Penny

    Audrey – you listen to too much limpball – Read the news, watch the unbais news, think for yourself and maybe – just maybe you'll really know what is going on.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. jb

    Dude I can see you read the Limbaugh speech. You are so right on, what a disgrace. Smaller government, loving your neighbor, self reliance, what a bunch of crap.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  8. Slider

    Keep talking, Steele.

    You can screw every conservative you want, but in the end, you will need us to keep your part afloat.

    Keep in mind, 58 million people voted against Obama. What do you think that amount would have been with a conservative as the Republican Party candidate instead of McCain?

    The moderate position in the Republican Party is coming to an end; it's a shame you aren't smart enough to see that.

    But you will. You won't be chairman of the GOP by then, but, you will see the inevitable.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Marsha

    Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter make a lot of money leading a mindless herd who need to believe they are right in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. With our wonderful new President we have a chance to get this country on the right track for all Americans.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  10. Los

    Uh oh, looks like Mr. Steele will be the next republican who has to apologize to Rush.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  11. Carol

    Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter, Republican party LOSERS! No more needs to be ssaid.

    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |

    The Republicans are GANGSTERS! Im sick and tired of them with their tricks. First they get a woman because we got Hillary. Then they get Steele because we elected Obama. Now they are turning to Rush because they have nothing left. Im sick of it, ENOUGH!



    March 2, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  13. Regular People

    Michael who?

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  14. Eric

    Audrey, you have had it? After the last eight years the rest of the world has had it. It's time for the Republicans to take a long needed break.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  15. Terrence Sullivan

    What is more rare... A Mom who gives birth to octuplets or a African-American Republican Party Chairman ? You have to be comatose to think Conservative Republicans aren't gagging on this. Conservative Republicans represent facism. Limbaugh's oratory is reminisent of Hitler's. He instills hate and intolerance in people who can't think for themselves and depend on an entertaining oratory to get them off their backsides and strike back. Limbaugh has always been a coward. His oratory inspires anger and spitefulness. He will fan the fires until the violence starts and then he will crawl back under his rock. Conservative Republicans are bedwetters and Limbaugh knows that . He brings their worst fears to the surface and then provokes them to act on those fears. Conservative Republicans are always worried about what might happen to diminish their privileged lifestyles. They worry about what might happent to their lifestyle if there is no minority to step on to maintain the status quo.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  16. Cathy

    Spare me the drama! Steele is nothing more than a token for the GOP. Rush LimStupid and Can't Shut up Sean Hannity run that party.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. SJ

    Rush is an idiot, but the real problem is that there is an audience for him.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. Eyes Wide Open

    It pains me to say it but I think we are just going to have to get used to living with less, making less money, having less possessions and value. At least for a while anyway, because it looks like the economy is going to be bad for a longer time than otherwise predicted. I was hoping against hope that things would turn around when Obama was elected but it is becoming apparent that it's not going to help. I think maybe the economy is less of a priority in the current government than healthcare and "green industries" and political paybacks. All of this talk about nationalizing industries and socialism is driving the stock market down, down, down. Loss of stock value means job cuts to prop up profitability. For some reason, no on seems to even want to talk about this. That worries me more than anything.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Dee Tee Gee

    Is Rush Limbaugh the white Al Sharpton? They're both fat, they've never met a camera or a microphone they didn't like. They love attention & the media gives them plenty of it. I find it strange that Sharpton is portrayed as the voice of black America but Limbaugh seems to somehow escape being labeled the voice of white America. Here's a guy who publicly said he wants the current President to fail. Does it get any more un-American than that? Does it get any more unpatriotic than that? This guy is the single most divisive figure in our society & the bad part is Limbaugh has a LARGE following, more than Sharpton & Jesse Jackson put together. But Sharpton & Jackson are the hate spewers. Then what does that make Limbaugh, the grand wizard. And Michael Steele has been misled. He's not the leader of the Republican Party, he's a counter move to Barack Obama. There is no way the GOP will ever be lead by a black man, NO WAY!! Steele is simply a facade.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  20. Liberal Fools

    You all are retarded! Who besides Rush is seeing what this country is coming to? You are being lead by a retarded Dec congress, and as a country welcome to a big government ruining this great country.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  21. Carol

    Limbaugh/Rove/Coulter, entire Republican Party, LOSERS. No more needs to be said.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  22. cbrody

    The republican party continues to wander aimlessly. Talk about rotten to the core.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. Dan

    How about a "ticker" concerning how Obama's spendulus package is tanking the economy as he watches in supified amazement? His policies and that of his cronies Pelosi and Reed will destroy this country by summer. They are empty suits with no idea of what they're doing. How about a ticker on that CNN? The Dow is below 7,000, the government continues to pour money into Citibank and AIG, and the rest of us are watching our 401Ks evaporate before our eyes. Bet you won't be taking that one on anytime soon, CNN. You're all so in the tank for that idiot Obama. Like Rush says, I HOPE HE FAILS!

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. The Real Issue

    As much as the Republican pundits want to say that Rush is not their spokesperson, he is and he leads by his message. Mr. Steele and the Republican Party have a lot to do with getting their message to the American people. So far, not so good.....the stimulus vote by Republicans tells it all. The Real Issue is that the party does not look out for the ordinary American.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. Typical White Person

    I have to ask, how many of you actually listened to Rush's speech and not just the MSNBC snippets or the Huffington Post review?

    He hit the nail right on the head when he said the the liberal policies towards the poor are cruel. Liberals believe that the poor are victims and we should feed them for life. Conservatives believe the poor have potential and we should teach them to feed themselves.

    You don't see conservatives telling the poor that they have no future unless the government gives them one. That's what liberals do. Conservativces tell them that each person has control of their lives and their future and the brightness of that future is only constrained by an individual's willingness to work to make it bright.

    You don't see conservatives telling minorities that their color keeps them out of jobs. That's what liberals do. Conservatives tell them the truth – you need an education and a professional presence to get ahead in this world. Every person in this country has access to an education that will place them in a position to create a professional presence and improve their life – regardless of their color.

    And before you liberals start in on "white schools get more money than black schools"...

    The highest per-student spending in this country is in the states of New York ($14,800), New Jersey ($14,600) and the District of Columbia ($13,400) and the lowest are Idaho ($6,400) and Utah($5,400).

    New Orleans spends $12,900
    Detroit spends $11,000
    Newark $17,900

    Compare that to predominantly white school districts:

    Traverse City, MI $9,500
    Westlake, LA $4,900
    Kearny, NJ $8,600

    Money, clearly, is not the deciding factor on how well a student does.

    March 2, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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