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. al/Alabama

    Steele vs Rush...Let's see who wins. Will Steele have to apologize to Rush as his followers like the politician from Georgia did? I wait with baited breath.

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

    Democrats spend 8 years comparing Bush to a chimp. Then a single cartoon which only obliquely references Obama in the same manner is catastrophized as racism. Democrats spend 6 years snickering about "Mission Accomplished" and going into melodramatic throes as they compare Iraq to Vietnam. Then Limbaugh has the balls to says outright about Obama what they know they were thinking about Bush: "I hope he fails." Praise be to my gun-toting fundamentalist god that I am too inbred and devoid of critical thinking skills to spot the hypocrisy.

    March 2, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. southernbelle

    LOL – the dems no longer have President Bush to spew their hate at – now they've found their new bogeyman – Rush Limbaugh – a PAID ENTERTAINER. Dems have so much hate for ANYONE who does not toe their BS-studded line. People – forget the entertainers – we MUST keep our eye on the ELECTED OFFICIALS – you know, the ones who actually have the POWER. Not a highly paid entertainer. It's almost as if since the election of "the One" – this is their back-handed attempt to shut down the conservative voices – now, of course, they don't have the guts to call it what it is and that's the return of the Fairness Doctrine – so they've used blogs, commentaries, and far-left websites to turn Rush, Hannity, Coulter, etc. into the enemy and perhaps they're right – the mindless Dems will not see they are being played and have fallen right in line with what they wanted to achieve. People – use YOUR OWN MIND – I occasionally listen to Rush and Beck – don't particularly like them, nor do I agree with everything they say – but they are the only ones who provide "the rest of the story" that the MSM WILL NOT TELL. If you don't like them – don't listen to them. But, do not try to take away MY RIGHT to listen to whomever I want – and that's what the libs are trying to do.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Gail in Texas

    WHO in a right mind listens to Limbaugh? The man is a buffoon, vacant upstairs, a loud-mouth attention-seeker, a raving lunatic. WHO could agree with his hateful rant, "hoping Obama fails". He is a member of the party that drove us into the ditch; he belongs in a Personality Disorder Clinic. Apparently he was on drugs the entire 8 years we were being screwed by Bush, Cheney & Co. with their lies and trampling of the Constution. I've been paying attention – why haven't those of you who support this lunatic?

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. Alex in MA

    Mr. Steele is deluding himself. He is a facade that the GOP marketing division is hoping will sell well. It will not. He is to Altria as Rush Limbaugh is to Philip Morris. The name and logo might look different, but the product will still kill you if you're exposed to too much of it.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. bcords

    nice try Michael..but being from maryland and watching you flounder here, i am convinced that you and your empty suit are no match for rush, sean and ann. they will chew you up and spit you out. you are there because of one reason...enjoy the ride while it lasts

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  7. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Don't bother Michael Steele. The liberals have their warped perception of reality. They pick the most extreme element, and a shock jock at that, and claim he represents Republicans. I guess that Howard Stern must be the voice of the Dems then.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  8. LADY D

    Mr. Steele you are being used. When they offered you the job, you should have said no and you should have known they were using you. The people of this party will follow Limbaugh because he is very very racist and right winged and they will never run the government again. Rush Limbaugh's ugly remarks match his ugly personality and his ugly face.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  9. joyce sisk

    rush limbaugh...who does he think he stand in judgement of our country.....get over rush....barack obama is out president, is you were a true american, you would get behind him and united our country....instead of trying to divide us.....grow up

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  10. Kole

    Audrey-do some research and get the real facts before you make such ignorant comments.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. Alphonso Gilmore

    This is the world we live in, where everyone has the freedon of speech and thr right to express their views. Happily, we all do not
    have to agree with some of those view points expressed by Mr. Limbaugh and certainly want the elected President to succeed. Rush Limbaugh from the begining was never behind Barack Obama so
    why would this change.

    When the time is right and he has to eat Crow. Let hope that he can still stand in front of National television and eat those words. " Let's not all RUSH to judgement." God Bless America, it's still the greatest country in the world.

    March 2, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. boatdude50

    We have seen what happens to Republicans critique Jabb the Hut. They will shortly apologize for speaking out.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  13. BURNS

    NEXT 4 YEARS-----


    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  14. Steve

    Limbaugh, in reality, is a hate-monger. He loves this country and hates 95% of the people in it. True conservatives dismiss him as a gasbag.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. sick of their crap

    Rush, Karl, Dick (look at them – they could be triplets) and the rest of those middle aged white guys who seem to think they speak and act for the rest of us...they make me ashamed to be a middle aged white American. They are idiots who are ruining and have ruined the future of many of us and have done it for the good of a select few – their own wealthy, right wing hypocrites who make up any story to try to justify their own distorted and selfish points of view. Can't these guys just go away forever (the country and world certainly hopes so) and let us get on with trying to fix the mess they left..?

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  16. Montana Son

    Michael, here's the difference between you and Rush: People listen to Rush. I disagree with the notion that he is "just a performer." But even if that is all he is – what are you? Apparently just another warmed-over politician leading a broken party in the same old direction.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  17. Rush Is Right!

    Sorry to say, but if you disagree with what Rush said at CPAC and you call yourself a conservative, you are delusional.

    Rush made the best speech our presidential candidate should have made this last election. He is our voice...maybe Michael Steele should be listening a little more.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Tired

    I don't agree with Limbaugh and I really wish he would either run for office or pipe down. This is not a time for divisiveness. All Limbaugh is succeeding in is getting his name in the headlines and making some money for himself. He is doing the country a disservice in the process. He should be hoping that the stimulus package works and gets the economy and this Country back on track. This spitefulness has to end or we will all go down the drain together.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Joe Unger, San Francisco

    Steele is quite correct. However the Obamaniacs hate the republicans and call Limbaugh the "leader" in order to denigrate the Repubs and further this dumb conclusion. Unfortunately, the media today loves controversy and "incendiary" comments and so will gladly post Limbaugh's worst comments with glee. When Limbaugh is reported on more t han Michael Steele, it creates a misleading impression.
    Also, last I looked, Limbaugh hated the Bush policies, on immigration and spending and the war on Iraq, similar to views of the Obama supporters.

    March 2, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Steele, you were put out in front to show that the GOP isn't just stuffy old white guys. You in no way control the GOP, its policies, or anyone in it.

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  21. kerry d

    Steele can prove he is the head of the Republican party by bringing the three traitorous north east Senators back into line. How dare they, and how dare Steele call Rush just an entertainer!

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  22. kathy

    If Steele is in truth the RNC leader, why doesn't the RNC back him up by denouncing the hatred and misery spewing from Limbaugh and company? It's defeafeningly quiet out there!

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. Big Bill from Brooklyn

    Time will tell who the fool really is.

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. H. L. Mencken

    All government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time.

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  25. Jeanette

    Rush Limbaugh is a despicable un American traitor. Will say anything and do anything for money. Enteainer? He doesn't enterain anyone other than those who are racisct woman haters. He is incendary and self endulgent with no concern for consequences to others. The republican party IS being guided by the Rush. I read in my local politican statement, and I am distrurbed. Steele doesn't get it. He is nothing more than a token for the Republicans.

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
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