Limbaugh Goes to Mat With RNC Chair

ABC News' Steven Portnoy reports: The nation’s most listened-to conservative talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh, practically declared war on the newly-elected leader of the Republican National Committee today, following a television interview in which the RNC chair called Limbaugh’s show “incendiary” and “ugly.”

In the interview that aired Saturday, Michael Steele, who became the Republican chairman last month, took umbrage when CNN’s D.L. Hughley suggested that Limbaugh is the “de facto leader of the Republican party.”   

“No, he’s not,” Steele said.  “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican party.” 

Referring to Limbaugh’s statements that the talk show host wants President Obama “to fail,” Steele said, “Let’s put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.”

Limbaugh responded today with an on-air diatribe against the new party chairman that ran nearly 20 minutes, alleging that Steele is more interested in being a “talking head” on television than leading the party to electoral success.

“I hope the RNC chairman realizes he’s not a talking head pundit,” Limbaugh said.  “It’s time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do, instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you’re having a tough time pulling off.”

Limbaugh then accused the RNC chair of being disloyal, after having appeared as a guest on Limbaugh’s show during his failed 2006 run for the Senate in Maryland.

“My parents taught me when I was growing up that you always stood behind people who defended you, that you never abandon people who stood up for you and defended you against assault,” Limbaugh said. 

Limbaugh said at the time Steele thanked him for coming to his defense, after Democratic party operatives illegally obtained and leaked elements of Steele’s credit report and Michael J. Fox appeared in campaign ads attacking Steele for his opposition to embryonic stem cell research. 

“Something’s happened. Now I’m just ‘an entertainer’ and now I’m ‘ugly’ and my program is ‘incendiary,’” Limbaugh said.

“Why are you running the Republican Party?” Limbaugh openly asked Steele. “Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party, when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? I, frankly, am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda.  I have to assume that he does because he attacks me for wanting it to fail.”

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington over the weekend, which Limbaugh now refers to as his “first nationally televised address to the nation,” the talk radio giant explained his rationale for not wanting Obama to succeed.

Limbaugh repeated the refrain on the air today. 

“I’ll say it again. Yes, I hope President Obama fails,” adding he does not understand why the statement has caused consternation. 

“It is not controversial in the least," Limbaugh claimed.  "If I do not believe that President Obama has the best interests of this country at heart, why should I hope he succeeds? ... If I don’t believe that Obama’s success equals Americans’ success, why in the world should I agree with it?”

When asked Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” whether the “Rush Limbaugh approach” equals the approach of fellow House Republicans, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., said “absolutely not.”

“I don't think anyone wants anything to fail right now. 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," Cantor said.

Limbaugh asked elected Republicans to call into his program today, to explain why they disagree with him.

“You tell me specific agenda items of Barack Obama’s that you want to succeed. I’d like to hear what they are,” Limbaugh said.

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