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. KIR

    Username "Had It",

    Delusion is right–the Republican Party for promoting a black man as the chairman of the GOP in hopes for swaying some the blacks to the republican side.

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

    Rush is the only one telling the truth these days. General Secretary Obama and the State media certainly aren't.

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Mourice

    Power! Power! Power!

    Imbalanced statements in search for regaining POWER!

    We need electrical power, let's upgrade the grids, people POWER for self-served interests destroys.

    The republicans are shaking, screaming, yelling, pontificating, like the atypical drug addict to give them back control. Just one more fix of power. Like the typical drug addict, republican need to go to rehab and get help. Not wander Washington looking for a fix. They are to strung out on the cocaine-of-power to see that their behavior is unacceptable and until they get help they are a danger to themselves and all they control – as with any other addict.

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Ray,Calif

    Relax Republicans..we are talking about semantics.....I have never heard any other Republican share his heart and soul with the American people touting the Conservative ideals.....If any other Republican wants to share his ideas, like Rush Limbaugh does, then please do it or get out of the way and let someone do it!!! I supported Michael Steele election.....but he is wrong on dumping on Rush Limbaugh...nobody has questioned your title Michael Steele not even Rush!!

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. Georgia Gal

    Well then I suggest that he get control of his party back from Rush Limbaugh or else come 2010 there may not be any Republicans left in Congress.

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. Don in Albuquerque

    Audrey, get a life!!!!!! You know, I have lived for over sixty years, and the one thing I have discovered is, the only thing constant in this life is CHANGE! This country is changing. Like it or not. If this country does not change with the times, then indeed it is doomed. And all the people who spoke at CPAC represent yesterday...........Not tomorrow. I am amazed that people do not realize that Obama is just the beginning of the CHANGE that this country must have to continue on.

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Gary

    Rush does not support the American people, just himself

    March 2, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  8. Steve Marroquin

    What does Rush know he has been living a lie all his adult life.
    Give him another pain killer.

    March 2, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Vern

    It's great, let Rush continue to speak for his party they will never be elected as long as Rush keeps his big mouth going!
    As for the comment made by Audrey: Don't you think there are more pressing issues to challenge than tax cut for small business? Maybe you and others need to give President Obama time to tackle more important issues. We didn't get in this situation over night and we will not get it fix,maybe, for years to come...chill out!!!

    March 2, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  10. Ben

    Tell Mr. Potato Head that he himself is just a puppet - a tool so that a bunch of old white men don't seem so much like a bunch of old white men.

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  11. Beejay

    Limbaugh and Coulter scare me. Why can't people just learn to get along with each other and stop with all this spewing of hate, nastiness, unnecessary name calling, and personal attacks. People, put all that energy to praying that God will grant the President the wisdom to get America out of this mess, instead of wishing for him to fail. What a moronic thing to say. No wonder so called Christians turn so many people against them....these are not Christian ways. These type of people give Christianity a bad name. The President is trying to do things differently to the old ways which got America in the trouble it's now in. Stop being so negative and work with him.

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  12. Gary from Charlotte, NC

    I have to call Steele out as a liar. He said it was fine for Rush to "hope the president" fails because Democrats did the same to Bush. This is a lie. Show me one clip where a Democrat says "I hope the President fails."

    Republicans considered mere "disagreement" as treason under Bush, but now Steele thinks it is fine for Rush to hope Obama (and thus America) fails. Does Rush hope the troops fail? Does Rush hope working Americans fail?

    Rush is a traitor against America, and Steele is a fool and a coward for allowing Rush to get away with his hatred of America.

    The GOP's slogan for 2010 should be "Hoping America fails because the GOP would prefer to ruin America if we cannot rule it."

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  13. pam

    Rush Limbaugh, what a joke as a human being. His meanness is offensive. As a life long republican, I am ashamed that he is a member of the same party. With our "leaders" like Limbaugh and Coulter, it will be a long time before we are back in power.

    Bring back Romney

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  14. Gerry

    His comments are so ridiculous that I don't even think that he's stupid enough to believe what he least I hope he isn't. If he is the new spokesperson for the GOP, I can understand ( quite easily ) why they lost the election and will probably lose alot more. Kind of reminds me of a supremist group.

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  15. Tim

    Better know your place Micheal. Talk like that will get you fired!!

    March 2, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  16. Takeshi

    Rita who are you ReALLY> sounds like a Red dog hiding out under some one elses name! Your sick if you think Rush is telling the truth. HOW about YOU do something about this country. DID YOU even hear his speach.?? all about protecting the top 2% who has grown the wealth from 10% fo income in this country to 25%.......... YOU GOT THAT so imagin them payin NO TAXES. WaKe up JR.

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  17. Christopher

    Bravo, Steele. While I am far from a Republican, it is nice to see a member of the other party steal the reins of leadership from a bitter man whose angry, counterproductive damage our country's progress.

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  18. Curtis G

    As long as Rush Limbaugh is the de facto spokesperson for the Republic Party, they will experience electoral defeats just as bad or worse than they did in 2008. It was exactly the politics of Rove / Limbaugh that drove moderates away from the Republicans last year, and they will continue to stay away as long as Limbaugh is the Republican mouthpiece.

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Mark

    I'm fine with anybody apposing Pelosi and Obama's socialsm! The sheep will agree once they start to get the bill..

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  20. Rush for Pres!

    Unfortunately Steele is a token minority placeholder until the Republicans can figure out what hit them in this last election. Rush is definitely much more known and respected by Republicans.

    And isn't that an incredible shame Mr. Steele? If you want to have any credibility, you have two choices – shut Rush up (unlikely) or start a new party that points to Rush as the problem.

    Rush/Palin 2012

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  21. Dragon


    Hey Audrey, Nice Try...

    I guess you would conclude as well that Pelosi is repsonbible for
    Iraq, Afghanistan, Ballooned Deficit, Huge Oil Profit, Healthcare Debacle, Crumbling Schools, Bank Collapse, 9/11, Umm… what else?

    Yes I got it, Earth’s Rotation, Yes that's it…!!

    Let me see if I can call you out here.

    This is your Strategy…

    OBAMA is popular with the people so, smearing him will not work.

    Therefore, Let’s beat up Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats in the house, so you may be, YOU will have republican congress in 2010.

    Aha! Then you can go after the President when you control the house by blocking everything he wants to do; hence he FAILS.

    Sound like Rush’s Strategy to me -:))

    Oh! By the way, does this sound familiar?

    De Ja Vu Strategy for then President Clinton in 1994..? When Gingrich and his conservative cronies come marching into Washington to take the house Gavel from Gephardt…?

    No baby NOT This Time, we have learned and it will not work, but Funny though, really funny

    Thanks for Memories...


    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  22. Christopher

    Bravo, Steele. While I am far from a Republican, it is nice to see a member of the other party steal the reins of leadership from a bitter man whose angry, counterproductive rants damage our country's progress.

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  23. RLisanidiot

    How original that RL is spewing his agenda of hate and hypocrisy upon the American public. If he were truly a patriot, he would back the leaders of the country – all of which are trying to desparately get us out of the mess RL's conservative cronies helped to put us in. Instead, he is helping to break down the very foundations he claims to support. Keep making the US and its government look like a bunch of bumbling baffoons to the rest of the public and the world, Rush.

    Though I unfortunatley voted for W the first go around and not the second, I still supported him as our President – like it or not. Obviously, RL is not a parent and doesn't understand the concept of a united front vs divisiveness. It's also obvious RL is a big fat hypocrate on more than one front.

    Shut up, Rush .. we're tired of hearing your self-righteous indignation. And in case you missed it, the US is NOT wholly comprised of ultra-conservative, middle-aged, overweight, pill-addicted, arrogant, narrow-minded, one-dimensional, loud-mouthed, backwoods, good-ol'-boy mentality, hate-mongering white men such as yourself.

    March 2, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  24. TPMJR

    Where was Had It when George and Dick were leading us down this road to ruin???? Limbaugh, Coulter and Rove got rich off of the Republican's version of smaller(BIGGER) government and SPENDING!!! Always criticizing, never offering any ideas except tax breaks for the rich!!!! Steele is right, they are entertainers. Limbaugh is a radio personality!!!! How is he qualified to make judgements about anyone in either party!!! At least these people saw fit to serve their country. The least they can do is give this president a chance, READ the package for yourself and then make a comment.

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  25. Chanda - Cincinnati

    Yeah...You keep on telling yourself that!! Whatever helps you sleep at night!

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
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