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. Steve

    Rush vs. Newt vs. Steele vs. Cantor. The Republican party is destoying itself with all this infighting. Good riddance!

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  2. Shirley in California

    I watched that interview Steele had with D.L. last night and I laughed. Although Mr. Steele seems to be a very intelligent (good looking) man-he is being used and he doesn't even seem to know/care. When he referenced one of D.L.'s guest as being from the "hood" and this man really wasn't that was another embarrasing moment for him. Mr. Steele go join a party that REALLY wants/needs you.

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  3. Renata Nicole

    I guess Steele has not gotten the memo. Seems he would have recognized that when Limbaugh got the prime position at CPAC and not him that Limbaugh was indeed the leader of the Republican Party.

    Note to Steele the Republicans aren't listening to you they are tuning in to Limbaugh.

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  4. Stephanie

    Rush's speech was amazing! It is about some time somebody stood up for the AMERICAN People and told these boys on the hill whats what!

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. Joe in PA

    Let's keep this simple. Limbaugh was always an idiot. He still is an idiot. He will always be an idiot.

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    For those of us who truly love this country and its' people, Rush Limbaugh is the lowest form of human and one could only wish that he would find somewhere else to live. PLEASE, Republican Party, disown him and his ridiculous comments.

    March 2, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Dave M.

    That battle starts. Brilliant move how the Dems are trying to make Rush the voice of the party. His divisive nature will only hurt the Republicans more and make their party weaker.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. John

    Steele is correct, Lardbody is an entertainer who'll say or do anything for an audience of Dittiots

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Judy Christopher

    I find that Limbaugh is a loud, uncouth,; bigoted bore. i know freedom of speech is our right according to our Constitutioh, but this man most times takes it too far. For shame Limvaugh. Grow up and join the rest of the adults in this country.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. Dave from Ohio

    Steele has to be PC where Rush doesn't, even though they both feel the same way about the socialization of this country. Let the Tea Party's begin across the nation.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. mo

    Rush is the one with scare tactics. He has my Mother so upset (she is 78) she is asking her Doctors what is going to happen when the government starts telling the Doctors how to treat her. Her Doctor thought she was crazy and asked her where she heard such nonsense and she told her "Rush"
    My MOm is a widow and reality is scarry enough for her. SHe does not need that whacko Rush filling her mind with such B.S.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  12. C

    Sorry, Mr. Steele, you are not the leader. You are a token. They have no respect for you – you should have more respect for yourself.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  13. WestVirginia

    Anyone who listens to Rush or any tard on FOX needs to step out of the box. How in the world that man is paid millions to be a insult to Americans and how people listen and follow him is beyond me..

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. C

    Sorry, Mr. Steele, you are not the leader. You are a token. They have no respect for you – you should have more respect for yourself.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  15. greg in jax offense to chairman steele, but really come on.. do you really think you have more influence over republicans than rush limbaugh.. when was the last time you had 20 million people listening to you and your hypocritical drug addicted foggy views. my guess is never.. rush's listeners, just like coulters readers, think of you as their token. dont feel bad, at least they let you in the room and gave you the title, that progress, i guess.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  16. Dexter

    Sure, Mike... The GOP is going to turn over the leadership of their party to a black guy.

    Uh-huh... You bet, buddy.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  17. Judy

    When you have to tell people you're the leader, you're not the leader.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  18. Alex

    Solid attempt Steele, but Limbaugh is your leader and you will never make us believe otherwise.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  19. Kevin

    I don't agree with Rush on everything, and I agree that his attitude is lousy most of the time. But as a conservative it concerns me that the GOP seems to be demonizing those who hold traditional conservative values.

    Whether you agree with conservative values or liberal values or not... I think we should all agree that we need leaders who will stick to their principles, and try to persuade people as to why their ideas are good and effective.

    But more political posturing by parties that will say and do anything to get elected is really getting old.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  20. Nick - Arlington, VA

    how long until Steele is groverling at the alter of Rush Limbaugh, begging him for is exactly what Democrats wanted. They are playing into our hands.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  21. David S.

    After seeing Phil Gingrey forced to apologize after he appeared to disavow Rush Lumbaugh, I think there is some credibility to the claim that Rush Lumbaugh is a leader of the republican party.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  22. LimabughSUCKS

    I am not a Republican but I think it is important to have multiple political parties to balance out power. And if we are to have a Republican party it is about time it is run serious conservatives not idiots like Rush Limbaugh who make the rest of his party look really bad.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  23. The Republican Conscience

    When the Chairman of the RNC has to compete with a radio talk-show host for control of a national party, you know the GOP is in a bad way.

    March 2, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Sharon Kitchen

    on and on and on they go........where they will stop......nobody knows...

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  25. Mervin M. Jr.

    Steele is a puppet and he seems to miss the fact that his party is "ugly". The kind of rhetoric spewed by Limbaugh, Coulter, Beck and Hannity is sadly what "energizes" the Republican base. Steele's party is an entity of pure hatred and divisiveness.

    March 2, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44