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. Stephy

    yeah right...
    this is as true as "George Bush did not put us all in the financial mess"

    March 2, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Brandon C.

    Rush is the defacto leader of Conservatives, not the Republican Party. Don't confuse the two. Nothing Rush says is hateful – the people who say that haven't listened to his show. I'm not a huge fan of his, but I completely agree with respect to hoping Obama fails. Why would a conservative want Socialism to succeed? Obama and his policies are anthema to Americans who believe in hard work, capitalism and liberty. He who trades liberty for security deserves neither. America is supposed to guarantee equal opportunity, not equal outcomes. Soaking the "rich" to pander to the poor will fail here like it has in every other country where it's been tried. If Capitalism is the unequal distribution of wealth, Socialism is the equal distribution of misery. Uh, no thanks – you can move to Cuba if you prefer the latter.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. MD

    Anyone who would dream of putting what is good for a political party over what is good for the country either needs to read, or re-read the novel 1984. In case any of those people might be illiterate, an audio copy is available.....

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. Doug

    Out of curiosity, why is it these ample mouthed people like Limbaugh and Dobbs run for office since they so obviously know everything? Oh that's right, because they would lose based on the fact their "opinions" Do Not represent the majority views or values.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. chemdemigod

    Rush is very entertaining, but what tunes in listeners and what makes sound policy aren't often the same. It's great to preach policy purity and stoke up your audience, but that also alienates everyone else you have to work with to get policy established.

    My greatest fear is that Rush splits the Republican Party. Republican Pols can't continually appologize to Rush and open up the party to anyone outside of Rush's fan base. Rush is so polarizing that you either listen to him or hate him. His 20-30 million listeners are extremely loyal, but won't win you many elections when the other 270 million people in this country hate you.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  6. How about a United America ?

    Rush or any body can say anything they want. That's the thing about speech – easy to make. It is always easy to criticize others ideas, but very difficult to propose ones own. Especially when one does not have any ideas !
    For once can the Repugs stop worrying about their party's future and start worrying about their Countries future ? They should understand that the Bush's Administration inextricably tied the GOP's future with that of the Country. It is in their best interest to join with the Dems in a Bi-Partisan way and get us out of this mess. I bet the Americans will look at this favorably when the GOP is asking for their votes during the next election cycle.
    Divide and conquer will not work in the US of A !

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. Eva

    Limbaugh is just trying to get attention, he is really such an agitator/incendiary. He probably wasn't breast fed.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. joyce sisk

    rush limbaugh...who does he think he in judgement of our leaders and our country...get over it rush....barack obama was elected our president, if you were a true american, you would get behind him and unite our country, instead of trying to divide us for your own ego...grow up

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Martha Yates

    When is somebody going to put a cork in this negative pill-popping draft-dodging pinhead. He lives purely for attnetion the headlines can bring him. Why would anyone even listen to him–he's an idiot and a jerk. Aren't there any conservatives with IQs higher than Rush? Sad.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. America will not fail

    Limbaugh (& Coulter, too) have publicly said they want President Obama and his administration to fail. In this period of perilous economic recession and in the midst of two foreign wars, that is unacceptable for public figures describing themselves as Americans. Their hateful rhetoric is aimed only at increasing their personal gain from their radio ratings and book contracts. America gave their conservative party eight long years to prove that its economic and foreign policies were good for this country. It has been an unmitigated disaster. We had a long and fair election process where their views were aired a length. Then the American people voted to reject their divisive and hateful philosophy. Now we have an intelligent, popular and very capable leader in Barack Obama and they can't stand it. Ignore them and reject them and stay supportive of the President as he puts in place the agenda that will lead us out of the extreme mess their policies have created.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  11. silverspring

    Michael Steele should just forget it because they are NOT going to listen to him. They elected him because he is easy to be manipulated. Russ Limbugh is their leader and they will follow Rush and do whatever Rush tells them to do.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  12. simple test

    Simple Test of intelligence:

    Did you agree with Rush Limbaugh's statements at CPAC?

    A) Yes, Conservative Values are the only way to Prosperity.
    B) No, Liberal Socialism is fair and good for everyone.

    If you answered A, you are above average intelligence.
    If you answered B, you are a moron who has no idea what freedom means and ignorantly believe that politicians will live up their promises to take care of you.

    March 2, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  13. Doug

    pardon me , I meant why don't they run for office.....

    March 2, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  14. charles

    hahaha – conservative throw down! tickets on sale!

    March 2, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. Jim

    Naming Rush as the party’s lead is a lie and is all part of Obama’s plan to destroy the Republicans. Could this be Obama’s real agenda or am I just a paranoid conservative?
    1) Funnel tax payer money to support unions and pro-Dem groups like Acorn to increase party base.
    2) Form an all power full Central Government by increasing taxes and taking over areas that have traditionally been handled through state programs.
    3) Eliminate all completion and create a one party USA.
    4) Implement full Federal control and social liberal agenda with UN support.
    5) Load the Supreme court with likeminded progressives.
    6) Open the border with Mexico and give all illegals citizenship and increase government funded (socialist) type jobs to ensure political power base for future generations!

    March 2, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  16. Texas Jake

    Porkulous rules, we bought it hook line and stock market sinker.
    Now, dude of truth, it is the truth that hurts. You mock what you do not understand. Rush is right, we have been fighting the longest battle since the great depression. Poverty, with all this money spent over the years it should be non-existent, yet it goes on. Shame on those who can't handle the truth, we pay unwed women to have children, give them sec. 8 housing, food, and a $300 dollar per child welfare check. Then the children of those unwed moms go on to gangs and prison, what a sad vicious circle. Thank you Dems for this rich life you provide the impoverished.

    March 2, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  17. M.B. Welsh

    This old party just does not have a chance, President
    Obama will have 2 terms then Michelle Obama will run
    ala Hillary and she will win two terms as our First female
    President. The Liberal's have always known we were the
    the silent majority,now we have Democrat's to vote for and
    keep in power.

    March 2, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  18. Laurie

    you make yourself look foolish. He gave 95% of us tax cuts–that includes business owners. And what pork are you talking about? Cite specifics. Creating more jobs with Green powered industries? Building roads, replacing the grid? Is that what you mean? If you're going to toss off allegations, then make one instead of a generality. And pork is Pelosi's agenda? Again, cite a reason, an example. Don't just regurgitate what you hear on AM radio......poor little sheep.

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  19. Tim

    Why is anyone even wasting time giving Limbaugh and Coulter a platform to stand on? What American people are they referring to? They definitely don't represent me! These so-called Conservatives kill me trying to push these old style politcs. Are they nuts? Don't they have sense enough to see that those are what got us in this mess we're in now? Steele is right about one thing, Limbaugh is nothing more than an entertainer just wanting to be seen and heard. He makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. President Obama evoking fear in people? What does he think Bush has been doing these past 8 years? I keep looking out for him to come out with a white hood and robe anyday now.

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  20. Mark Cross Junction VA

    So LImbaugh was wrong when he said we reward women who keep having babies. He is right, food stamps WIC programs medical treatment , all with no obligation to pay back by these individuals. Mean while the father(s) keep having them with out paying a dime. School systems overwhelmed because of illegal immigrants forcing the state to provide meals, special teachers to aide these people. Michael steele is out of touch for one reason, he is BLACK, trying to appease the black voters he hopes will switch teams. The people running this country are patetic individuals giving it away with open arms.

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  21. Scotti

    If the RNC doesn't think Rush's comments should matter, why do they let him spead for an hour and 20 minutes at their Conservative Political Action Conference railing on the president? That's like letting Michael Moore do that at the DNC.

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. Rony

    Let the Stupid Republicans fight amongst themselves ! and they
    just need to SHUT UP, they did their fare share of destroying this
    country with ignorant BUSH.

    Now leave our NEW president ALONE, so he can try to fix this
    damage the Republians made !!! It's his turn you Republicans
    did your share !!! JUST SHUT THE HELL UP ALREADY !!!!!!

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. It's The Ronald

    Shouldn’t Rush be blacklisted by the media and society just like other people who have been involved with drugs? How can the Republican base even support this cretin?

    March 2, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  24. Once you vote Black

    That poor mayor should have stuck to his guns. I have said the same thing about Obama growing watermelons in the white house. who has not. If this guy is so weak that he would quit just because people are calling him a racist then perhaps he should not have the job. He had a right to send it out. Just like she had a right to tell others that he sent it out. He should have stood his ground. Now that is funny!

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  25. Pat

    I love watching the Republican party during its identity crisis. So much entertainment! Jindal, Steele, Limbaugh, oh my!

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
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