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. Cal-G

    Rush Limbaugh is a drug-addicted, narcissistic, radical delusionist with visions of grandeur centering around himself being the Republican "king of the world." Personally, I'd be fearful not only for my life but for the country if this angry psychotic ever became the leader of ANYTHING, much less the GOP. He doesn't need authority, he needs psychiatric treatment!

    March 2, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Independent Again

    So when u call for Bush to fail, ur patriotic!
    When u call for Obama to fail, ur racist!

    Yep that's change with a large heaping of HYPOCRISY!!!!

    March 2, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. JSU-TIGER99

    TOPIC: GOP chairman says he leads party, not Rush Limbaugh, Please stick to the topic. Now gettign to the matter at hand RUSH is telling them what to do and thye do it now lets move on.

    March 2, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  4. Rob

    Yah Steele, "You be da man!"

    ...or maybe not...

    March 2, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  5. johnrj08

    Audrey– Clearly, you don't know what's in the stimulus package. However, I agree with you that Pelosi needs to remove the crown from her head and back off. She's quickly becoming an impediment to getting anything done in Congress.

    March 2, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  6. Put an End to the Republican Dictatorship Over the US


    You DON'T RUN this dog and pony show. You're just there for looks.

    The thin veils of hypocricy are coming down and the WHOLE WORLD sees the TWO FACES of the Republican Party.

    The REPUBLICAN PARTY is the TWO HEADED DRAGON in this room.

    THE WHOLE WOLD SEES THE TWO FACES of Rush 'I HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS', Pill Popper, and Annie Get Your Guns Out of OUR Faces, Coulter!!

    LET them keep spewing their venom. They seriously think they have ALL THE ANSWERS, then WHERE HAVE THEY BEEN THE LAST 8 YEARS?

    March 2, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  7. Hammer

    Rush Limbaugh would be a better choice than Steele. Steele is just more of the same politics as we have in Washington.

    March 2, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  8. Scott in NJ

    Audrey: Quit spewing tired and easily disprovable untruths. First, there are tax cuts in the stimulus bill, and many would go to "small businesses, which are usually individuals who either file a Schedule C as individuals or are incorporated.

    Second, there is almost nothing in the stimulus bill that could be called "pork" by usual standards. Less than 1% of the bill involves projects that could even remotely be considered pork, and that's only if you don't understand economics whatsoever or if you're just being intentionally obtuse.

    The whole goal of a stimulus bill is to spend money in order to reduce unemployment and put money in play via wages that will be spent as well. Tax cuts do not accomplish this, as we've seen again and again since 1980.

    March 2, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  9. daviddental

    Being a single white male who makes over 100k every year, taxes and the republican ideals of old are important to me. However Obama is doing nothing that was not started in the Bush admin. You are angry over stimulus packages because it feels like welfare, which the republican ideal is against, however this is a problem that started under the Bush administration, using a stimulus package that was also begun under Bush and Paulson. Sure if there were nothing done, companies would be going out of business , banks and insurance companies would be failing left and right and the economy would reset faster, but there would be men women and children much much worse off in the short term. So its a moral question, not just an economic one. If there were an easy answer to this it would have been done by now. You are angry and want to blame, but our current president is not the one to be angry at.

    March 2, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Sorry cnn-bots but in this case, no mattter how you look at it, Rush's viewpoint, no matter how 'ugly, is spot-on. If you stop for a minute, ignore the media (on all fronts) and look at actual facts, you can get to the heart of the problem. The american people are over-spent. Not banks – not wall-street. We have borrowed too much. And what is the liberal solution? 'force the banks to lend more'. The blind leading the blind.

    March 2, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  11. jane doe

    Well then, why give him a platform at the Conservative Political Action Conference? Why let him speak for over an hour longer than he was slotted for? Why did fellow Republicans rise to their feet in support of him?

    Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words. Michael Steele may believe what he says, but clearly a significant portion of his party think otherwise.

    March 2, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. roy

    ok. so you, the fat man with an oxycontin addiction to the point of losing your hearing have become the mouth piece of the DIRTY and hypocritic right to take the country back?
    back from what? the abyss you and all the republicans have sent our country into?

    March 2, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  13. B-man

    Mr Steele needs to get a grip on reality. Mr Oxycontin is the supreme leader of the Republican mess...

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. DM

    Wait, this is the party that "has the better alternative" and here they are playing name calling games, when there is a deeper crisis at hand to be taken care of....a crisis that they are about 95% partly to blame for?

    I see where the priorities lie, personal agenda and propaganda....certainly not "America's best interest" at heart here.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. JDH

    If the Republicans think Rush will take the role as leading voice for the party, then they have driven their ducks to a poor market. Either the GOP doesn't get it or they just don't care.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  16. Bill

    Even if Steele won't admit it, the stark reality is that a whole lot of people live by whatever Rush tells them and believes he is speaking the truth. Until the GOP can get Rush out of the way, the future does not look bright for the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. Center of the Middle

    Ah...The left and right continue to divide america with their narrow minds and antiquated beliefs...

    Evolve already!!

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  18. James A. Lathan

    Re: Rush Limbaugh
    Is this the best that the "Party of No", I mean the "Republican Party" can do? Where were their objections when their friends were running AIG, Fanny Mae, and others into the ground, and receiving huge bonuses. Where were their recriminations when their buddys were making millions off companys making these bad sub-prime loans? Oh, its ok to bailout all their rich friends on wall street, and the guys mis-managing the banks. But not one penny for the poor guys working hard everyday trying to save their homes.

    So Rush Limbaugh wants the President to sad that all he and the Republican Party can do is point their fingers and go negative.
    But I've noticed that I've heard no alternative ideas from any of these people.

    It is possible that none of these policys will work....but at least we have a man in the office who is willing to try. My wife and I will probably lose our house, we arent bitter about it. And we're still fighting to save it. But we do appreciate what President Obama and his administration is trying to do. To Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Party of No,,,I say shut up and get out of the way.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  19. Guy

    Limbaugh is an idiot. Anyone who listens to him is an idiot. This country is in the mess it is in because of eight years of incompetence. The 2 trillion dollars we wasted looking for that bug eating cave dweller would come in handy right about now. That Limbaugh and his like have the nerve to say anything is beyond me.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  20. WI Cheesehead

    The GOP will remain a mess as long as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Sean Hannity of this world have a free hand at setting the agenda for the GOP. The naked truth is Michael Steele and Bobby Jindal both are being used as tokens to show that the GOP has crossed the railroad tracks. Sad thing is those old tricks won’t work any more. Just like the tax-cuts that Reagan used to jump start the economy back in the early 80s. That strategy was unique for that time and the notion of recycling old ideas over and over to fix unique situation just shows how the GOP is “gone astray” when called upon. When called upon the GOP shouldn’t just continue with their “denial, delay and do nothing, bipartisan for the sake of bipartisanship” song.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. ldk

    This must be part of Steele's "Off the Hook" strategy. I wonder if it includes an on-the-air apology to Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Noelle Bingham

    Its fun to watch the republican party slowly destroy itself.
    If your not part of the solution, your part of the problem

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. D.t

    Limbo,dumbo what ever his name is, a selfish, racist, and addict... we should not take him seriously if we want rebuild America.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. An American

    Its going to be long, expensive four years. Not to mention how Obama is changing the face of our Country. Not sure we can ever go back to the America as our parents and their parents, and myself and our kids have enjoyed. We are not a socialist America – never have been and do not want to be. Rush is no fool – he sees the threat to being overrun and overpowered by Government. Your a fool if you dont' see it.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. TEW

    I hate to say it but Mr. Steele's election as leader of the GOP was an obvious ploy to give the appearance of inclusion. Anyone with common sense can see that Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity those crazy republicans from the south chart the direction of the GOP party and reflect the opinions of the ridiculous radical right. I'm sorry Mr. Steele but you are nothing more than that proverbial house Negro or worse that hideous lawn jockey that sits outside the illustrious mansions reflective of the fanatical Republican elite.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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