Limbaugh lashes back at Steele for 'entertainer' diss
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Monday March 2, 2009

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UPDATE (at bottom): Steele apologizes to Limbaugh

Responding to criticism by recently-elected RNC chairman Michael Steele, talk show host Rush Limbaugh tore into the party's leader, contending that Steele is actually "not the head of the Republican Party," cautioning that the chairman is off to a "shaky start."

ABC News said that Limbaugh had "practically declared war" on the Republican leadership.

"Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer," Steele told D.L. Hughley during a Saturday broadcast of CNN's D.L. Hughley Breaks the News. "Rush Limbaugh's whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly."

Moments before, Steele had asserted himself over Limbaugh as the "de facto leader of the Republican Party."

On the same show, Hughley remarked that the 2009 CPAC convention -- at which Rush Limbaugh was the final keynote speaker -- "looked like Nazi Germany."

"Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC," said Limbaugh. "You are not head of the Republican Party."

"I hope... he realizes he's not a talking head pundit," said Limbaugh on Monday. After telling him to go behind the scenes and do the work he's been hired to do, the radio host added, "He's off to a shaky start."

The first suggestion that the host would lampoon the GOP leader came in an e-mail from Rush to Politico.

"I’ll handle it on the radio," he wrote.

During his Monday show, he Limbaugh quoted the Politico story, but referenced them on as "the drive-by media."

"Mr. Steele, if you want to lead the Republican party -- as you say you do -- you need to run for and win the presidency," said Limbaugh, adding that Steele isn't going to lead the party by being "cute" on cable news.

"Don't underestimate the intelligence of this audience," he continued. "Republicans and conservatives are sick and tired of being talked down to. Until you should them the respect they deserve, you are going to have a hard time rebuilding your party."

"I'm not in charge of the Republican Party, and I don't want to be," said Limbaugh. "I would be embarrassed to say that I'm in charge of the Republican Party in a sad-sack state that it's in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it's in, I would quit."

"Rush knows what he is doing," wrote David Frum on the conservative Web portal "The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

"Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise – and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important."

"Doubtless this will lead to the usual complaints that Frum's a fraud, a sell-out and an intellectual snob," noted Spectator's Alex Massie. "All this could be true and none of it would prohibit Frum being right."

The following audio is The Rush Limbaugh Show, broadcast on Feb. 2, 2009.

Update: Steele apologizes to Limbaugh

In an exclusive interview with Politico, RNC Chairman Michael Steele said he's sorry for his remarks about Republican talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh," Steele said. "I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. ... There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

"I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking," he said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people ... want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not."

This story has been updated from its original version.

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