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. Open your eyes.

    Ummm, Audry. No one ever claimed that Obama wrote the bill. That is ludicrous– have you seen how big it is? The bill was written by lawmakers. Calling Obama a puppet for this is not only wrong, it is unsubstantiated. And yes, it does have democratic ideals/programs for health care, education, etc.– because democrats penned it - because they are the majority now. If you want to call that "pork" so be it. However, I bet you wouldn't call it "pork" if it was rife with republican ideals/programs.

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

    Here come the Obama whiners, they, like their messiah are not up to the task of taking criticism. He is well on his way to driving up our deficiet further before bowing out and being a paid speaker after this term. It is America and Rush has the right to say what he feels. Do we really want Gov. to approve our opinions?

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  3. Unbelievable

    "GOD will get him and all the others that want to destroy this country ..."

    GOD will get Obama? Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today's average clear-thinking, generous Christian/Republican LOL!

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. Steve

    I am a former Republican and a current Obama supporter. I feel like my former party lost its way somewhere in the past 8 years and abandoned me to the likes of people like Sara Palin and Rush Limbaugh (poorly-educated loud-mouthed fools).

    There is new hope. My respect for Mr. Steele just increased significantly. I was wondering when someone in the Republican Party would finally stand up and say, "Enough is enough!" Mr. Steele has shown his backbone and his name may very well have something in common.

    I can only hope that this is just the beginning of the Republican party returning to the values it has lost; conservative pragmatism based in fact and careful management. This side show we've seen in the past few years, and especially in the past months has got to end, or it will end the party.

    Keep up the good work, Mr. Steele. If you can shut these idiots up, and get the train back on the track, there are many centrist-conservatives out here who will return to the party.

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  5. northern observer

    Steele may be the "de facto" leader of the Republican party but Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, Sean Hannity, et al are the true voices of the party. Republican Congress-persons claim they want to work in a bi-partisan manner, but as Limbaugh said their true aim is to ensure the "failure" of President Obama's administration so they (the Republicans) regain absolute and total control of the Presidency, Congress, and the nation. Having had a little taste of absolute power under the Bush administration, they crave that feeling again.

    March 2, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Synn

    Rush DOES NOT lead the GOP, and neither does Coulter or Rove!

    Michael Steele is right when he says that Rush is an entertainer, although a very good one, we cant take everything he says to be a statement of the GOP...To say that he wants the President to fail is almost he same as saying he wants the country to fail..The GOP would never stand by a statement like that!
    The White House is stupid to engage Rush. Obama and Rahm should ignore what he says, because they direct attention his way when they respond. Very foolish of them!

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Brian

    This is hype that is attempting to distract us from other issues that the media should be reporting on.

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. Eugene V Debs

    When the republicons come out with the talking points FIRST and then limbow and the faux news cadre FOLLOW then it might be viable for steele to claim he leads the far right opposition party. Until then, this is a party led entirely by the fringe extremist right wing. If limbow et al insist on using "socialist" even though it is not in any way reminiscnet of the agenda we see from the Democrats, then liberals should start calling limbow and the republicons fascists. The extreme left of the political spectrum is communism. We have never had a viable communist movement in the US, and the last time anything resembling a socialist left existed was in the early 19-teens with Eugene Debs. However, the agenda limbow promotes – corporatism, the state as a protector of business, individuals subject to the whim of corporatism, limited rights, ginning up fear and hypernationalism, militaristic foreign policy, unlimited military spending, supression of minorites, and of course the blatant and repeated use of proaganda and lies to promote the agenda, is not much of a stretch from the facist regimes of the 1920s and 30s.

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  9. tom w

    The Limbaugh Republican tactical position to do everything in his power to make Obama fail is the same tactical position as al-Qaeda. America needs leaders and spokesmen that can help pull us together to help rebuild and fortify our country, not a political party. Hopefully we can clearly address our voices even louder at the next polls that any political party, solely focused on its own survival, and intolerant of the larger needs of the American people, are as unwelcomed as the intolerant terrorists hiding in their caves.

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. sandy kitchen

    Regarding Rush Limbaugh comment...

    He has the right to speak his mind,,,last I heard ,,this is still a free country.....

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

    Rush is the one with the common sense here. Rush's speech to CPAC far outdistanced that show that obama put on tuesday night. Rush is RIGHT and he;s reaching more and more people every day. Be scared nutroot lefties

    Obama is a puppet and his master is Princess Pelosi and Prince Harry

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. John

    As Rush pointed out, there is a large divide in the republican party. Conservative is not necessarily Republican. There are many of us conservatives that want little if anything at all to do with the Republican party, nor will we send the GOP any cash. Rush is undoubtedly the lead of the conservative movement in America and people like Michael Steele, who I used to respect, don't appear to be smart enough to tell the difference.

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. kuriya

    I don,t think Steel is the leader of the republican party. The republican's who were present in that meeting cheered more about Limbaugh and Coulter basing of Obama then any member that spoke that day. By the way was he in the meeting? What was he thinking when all those comment were made especially when Rush said he want Obama to fail? Please let him give us a break with his hypocrite self.

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

    Well, in my opinion Mr. Obama is a believer in Leninism.

    He will take away our capitalistic freedom.

    He must be stopped and Republicans must get elected to the Congress in 2010. If McCain ran a better campaign and had a better running mate, he would be the President.

    Granted we have many problems, I want our freedom and liberty to last.

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  15. Wade

    Screw all you Liberal kool-aid drinkers! Obama will fail and the country will fail unfortunatelt becuz of it. Look at the damage Obama and his crazy stimulus packages have caused already! America is Conservative, not Liberal, and in 2012 we will take it back. The Hollywood Liberals and all the East Coast Liberal Loons can leave the country then!!!!!!!!!!!!! haha too bad so sad

    March 2, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  16. carlo


    Obama became president by the approval of the American people. Rush was crowed King of the Right by fringe groups. Steele was appointed RNC head by old white men who are too chicken to stand up and speak for themselves about how they really feel. If anyone's a puppet, its Steele. You should read the hateful comments about Steele, from his constituents, after he dared to criticize Rush the Saviior.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  17. Don in Albuquerque

    Gee, Mr. Steele. Why do you not consider becoming a Dem? You would be welcomed.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  18. Scytherius

    HAHAHAHAHA Awesome! Hey Hip Hop, Rush "Party Before Country" Limbaugh is the head of the GOP. Don't you know that? Better apologize and lick the boots like every other elected GOP politician.

    Watching you Republicans destroy yourselves is more fun than you can possibly imagine. And the fact that you are clueless that it is occurring is even more fun.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Rush gets paid $40 million a year as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party. The true believer right wing fanatics love him. I can't remember a more successful propagandist since Joseph Goebbels.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. bert andres

    rush is a drug addict he will say and do anything to get what he wants he broke the law and was shown leniency but has none for others in the same situation he is a hypocrit and manipulator and should be wallowing in prison

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Predictable

    Limbaugh is a nozzle.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  22. Tanksleyd

    Rush Limbaugh belittled the word "Community". (Hath he no shame?)

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  23. Chanda - Cincinnati professional help...QUICKLY!!!

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Michael

    Rush a fool? I think I fool would be someone who doesn't even know the difference between the words "are" and "our". If you want to be taken seriously you might want to show enough intelligence to grasp the English language before you show up spouting the DNC talking points.

    Obama wants to turn America into a socialist country and Rush hopes that he fails in that aspiration. Socialism is not what made this country great, capitalism did. Socialism made the USSR what it is today...Gone.

    March 2, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Jake

    Here come the Obama whiners, they, like their messiah are not up to the task of taking criticism. He is well on his way to driving up our deficiet further before bowing out and being a paid speaker after this term. It is America and Rush has the right to say what he feels. Do we really want Gov. to approve our opinions? Well put, Audery, President Pelosi is out for her own objectives (like using birth control to keeps tabs on population).

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