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. Arizona Conservative

    Rush may not lead the republican party, but he does speak the truth for all of us Conservatives who have been betrayed by Michael Steel and the rest of the "Republican Party." We were the party of a weaker centralized govt, and individual rights, but no longer

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  2. tj

    Uh oh, Rush will expect a full apology.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |


    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  4. usualone

    Thank you Mr. Steele for speaking up on this matter. More people should make similar comments about Limbaugh. The only thing is we cannot laugh off Limbaugh because too many people fall for his line of talk. He will stir up too many people who really only want the sound bites of life and then throw around hateful comments. Limbaugh is loving this attention as his outlandish comments make the press (the press doesn't want "dull") and he is making lots of moola over stirring up the pot.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  5. Bill

    Please nobody is leading the GOP except Limbaugh and the other idit Ann Clulter. Mr. Steel you have the easy job in America you can do nothing draw a fat paycheck and stay home. I agree you are being used by the GOP and the sad thing you do not even realize it.

    Mr. Steel you sent my uncle a letter asking for $300 to help rebuild the Republican Party. My Uncle gave it due consideration and threw it in the trash can.

    Until the right wing nuts leave the Republican Party including the ones currently in Congress you will keep loosing seats in Congress.

    By By GOP!

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. tornado1972

    The good old boys of the republican party could care less about Steele for more reasons than one. I not sure who has our country now, but where has it gone that Limbaugh thinks we need to take it back. Last I checked fellow Americans are running this great country and doing a great job with the mess they found there from the last 8 years! Also the faces I saw in the crowd does not look America as it is today

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. Moonbeam

    Oh, grow up!

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  8. seth, minnesota

    Limbaugh is still the leader of the Republican, until someone with a spine stands up and charts a different direction.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  9. Molly

    Well I guess this confirms it then...Rush is the leader of the "new" Republican party.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  10. Chris, Albany NY

    Listen, I stumbled across the CPAC convention when Limbaugh was speaking. It sure looks like he's the head of the party, the cheer and applause he got were Obama-esk. If you watched when he was speaking he spoke about how the repugs. are the party of inclusion. Well if you paid attention while the cameras were panning out EVERYONE in the crowd was a white person. Earth to rush and the repugs. inclusion means actually including everyone, not just old conservative white people. BTW, IM a white guy so don't try to pull some stupid BS.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. wishing

    America has come far when a mixed-race individual can become President of the United States and a black-American can be the leader of the Republican Party.

    We can honestly say that it would be more difficult for a black-American or woman to become the Pope, than President.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. chuck

    How D.L. Hughley got a show on CNN – "breaking the news" is completely incomprehensible. He is the poster child for the saying, "It's not what you know, but who you know." He must have a gang of real journalists behind the scenes talking into his earpiece. And yet, from some of the exchanges I have heard with guests, maybe he doesn't. Does he have a degree in journalism, communications, or public relations? I doubt it.

    March 2, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    awww this is getting good

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  14. rene ohio

    he's a token and the gop will never get the black vote NEVER

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. carol

    I used to be a member of the Republican party, but as long as they allow hateful people like Rush L. and Ann Coulter to represent them, I will not vote Republican. The party is sending the wrong message to voters by allowing these two to represent the GOP.

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  16. Ex-Republican

    So the GOP is either marching off a cliff?

    or marching in a circle?

    Thank the Lord someone else is leading the country

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  17. Libertarian in AK

    Of course the left will say Limbaugh runs the GOP. Scary, Scary.

    Of course he does not do anything of the sort.

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Fredi

    I want to watch that fight – it sounds like fun!

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Obamacrat

    Take it for Michele Bachmann, Richard Steele be da man!

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Rush2012

    Who does Steele think he's messing with? Rush has millions of followers. Steele just came onto the scene.

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. Steve

    Now taking bets on how long it will be before Steele is forced to apologize to Rush.

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  22. shucks

    Then his fellow republican politicians need to denounce Limbaugh instead of inviting him to speak at republican/conservative events. Can't have it both ways folks. America already knows that the conservative right folks are all about hatred, racism, division and changing laws to alienate those who don't think like they do. Sorry that is un-American and won't be tolerated any more.

    March 2, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  23. windfall

    at least this guy gets it: Limbaugh is entertainment. he filibusters 4 hours a day, spewing his opinion, but presenting it as fact.

    if he had any ideas, or any balls, he'd put his money where his mouth is and run for office. it's just too easy this way, ain't it Rush? $100 million.

    March 2, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  24. Gary

    Bull! Yea the guy is an entertainer and any fool who listened and does listen to him knows how he likes to stick it to the media and his critics. He plays the other side for fools and they always bite. Where Steele and a lot of Repulicans are WRONG is that the guy has hit the nail on the head and is able to articulate it well. Instead of sying he is nasty and "ugly" start to say where the Dems and the Pres is wrong and what policies are dangerous. And most of all show some backbone. As for Rahm et al, they are token political thugs who are having thir cover blow by this entertainer. National Socialism anyone?

    March 2, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  25. ROFL

    Someone should tell the RNC that such examples as

    *Democrats not being "real" Americans
    *Obama wanting the whole country to become "socialist"
    *Obama not being a "natural" citizen
    *Palin being qualified to speak on matters of foreign policy because she can "see Russian from her house"

    etc. etc.

    are not, in fact, arguments of substance.

    And I find it absolutely hilarious that they are now, in effect, blaming Rush Limbaugh on the Democrats (the "straw man" they've created to attack, right?) Talk about political theater!

    March 2, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
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