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. Tom

    Steele represents much of what is wrong with the GOP. They're trying to be "Democrat – lite", in teh hopes that some moderate Democrats will support them. FOOLS. Why get a fake Democrat when you an get the real thing? Limbaugh speaks for a lot more people than Steele does.
    BTW "dude of truth": can you name ONE hateful thing Limbaugh has spewed? (And no, saying that he hopes Obama fails is NOT hateful...temporary economic relief at the price of permantent liberty loss is no bargain).

    March 2, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. Matt

    I wish CNN and MSNBCgave this a libreal media type are just feeding Rush's Point. STOP IT!!!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. Jeanne from Arizona

    LOL!!! Of course Limbaugh is running the party, who are you kidding!!

    March 2, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Missy M

    Anyone who calls Rush Limbaugh the voice of the Republican party is really out of touch. Limbaugh has been one of the biggest critics of the Republican party ... some blame him for McCain's losing the election. Limbaugh never supported McCain, criticized him relentlessly, and therefore, many of his listeners never fully backed McCain. In fact, early on, Rush was the one telling listeners that it would be better for McCain to lose the election so we can have a one-term tax-and-spend democrat for a president – making it easier for republicans to win in 2012. Limbaugh no more leads the Republican Party then Bill Maher leads the Democratic Party.

    March 2, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. Donnie Shinholser

    Once again, the liberal news media is taking someone they don't like out of context. Rush said he wanted President Obama to fail, IF HIS MISSION IS TO DEFEAT CAPITALISM. Any thinking American better hope he fails IF HE WANTS TO DESTROY CAPITALISM. Who, in their right mind, wants to see Socialism and Communism take over our country. No one is wanting our new president to fail in general, but only in the areas where his mission is not good for us.

    March 2, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. YoungGrad

    He said this publicly on DL Hughley's show, pretty good show actually.

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. Jacque Bauer

    It's no surprise to see the MSM lable Rush's remarks as "ugly" – that has always been their game plan: demonize and marginalize anyone who is a trheat to you. If you saw his speech, there is no doubt that most would say it was uplifting and positive.

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. Julia Byrd- Hayden Idaho

    I sure hope the republicans nominate the drug addict blow hard for their next pres. I have faith that Americans are neither that mean or that stupid to put that moron into office. didn't he get put on probation for his drug bust?

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Will-South Dakota

    He's going to have to re-cant his comments. The face and voice of the GOP isn't Steele, Boehner or McConnell thats for sure.

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  10. DaveE

    Rush may not be the De facto leader of the Republican party, however he is their spiritual leader which is evidence by the huge audiance he appeals to and the fact that mindless republican drones quote and use his statements as facts. If the Republicans want to put on a new face then their political leaders need to condemn his treasonous statements.

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  11. JOE

    Republican Party, DREAM ticket for 2012...Lush Limpdick and Mooseface Palin..What a combo this will be..Cant wait...

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  12. michaels

    I saw the speech by Limbaugh on Saturday. If that is entertainment, the republican party is in trouble. He acted, portrayed and embelished his own agenda and belief that he was the leader of the republican party.

    Unless Michael Steele must step up and puts this loud mouth, ignoramous fool out to pasture and quick!

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  13. LetFreedomRing

    I'm no fan of Rush Limbaugh....but I'm 100% with Rush on this one.

    I hope Obama fails too. In fact – I want a Bumper Sticker that says it.

    I'm sick and tired of the Liberals trying to destroy this great country!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  14. Clint

    Rush will make Michael Steele kiss his ring like he did Congressman Phil Gingrey on his radio program.

    March 2, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  15. Why

    Why do we continue to make a big deal out of WHATEVER Limbaugh says or does – he is only a poor unimportant person who wants to be a big shot – and hopefully NOT THE HEAD OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. urkiddame

    Audrey, you've "had it," isn't that patient of you. The guy has been in office what, five weeks? How do you think the rest of the country felt about your guy, bush, after 8 YEARS!
    People like you are even funnier than the fat comedian who leads your party.

    March 2, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  17. Rick

    The entire Republican party is entertainment. A great big charade at the expense of "real Americans." When you invite Limbaugh and Coulter to speak at your events, you are asking them to represent your party. You know what they are going to say and how they are going to say it. Snide, catty digs at the president and our country that Americans (republicans included) are sick and tired of.

    March 2, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  18. Steve Davis

    Being an expat Australian,who for the past 5 years has lived in the U.S, I can honestly say that Rush Limbaugh encapulates everything that is wrong with your country.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. David in Indiana

    If President Obama had not been elected, most of the country would not know who Michael Steele is. Is it just a coincidence that the Republican Party now shows it values diversity?

    The way to fix the Republican's recent setbacks is to be a proactive Party not a reactionary one.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. Seth

    Yeah lets blame pelosi with her pork barrel under her arm. Seems like obama does not mind. He just signs. She is bad news.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. babs

    If Rush is not the GOP spoksmen they why don't they ask him to shut up? It's doing them harm and making them all look hateful. He's just a fat know-it-all that knows nothing. I guess you could call that entertainment.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  22. shirley ann


    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  23. Bryan

    How long do you think it will take for Steele to issue an apology to Limbaugh over these comments? Phil Gingrey barely made it 24 hours before he started kissing Rush's feet, declaring him a "Conservative giant" and "the voice of the conservative movement's conscience." I hope Steele stands up for his ideals and shows other Repubs that they don't have to get on their knees for a blowhard with a mic. The best thing that could happen would be to have Rush's fear driven, hate-mongering rhetoric exposed by true conservatives for the garbage it is. Conservatives will only be taken seriously by the electorate when they start standing for something more than opposition and the status qou. Resist, Michael Steele, and show America that you have more to offer than a GOP interested in placating crazies like Coulter and Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. Ilona

    The Republicant party needs a real leader , someone who can unite the party together.

    March 2, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Josh


    March 2, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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