Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel called Rush Limbaugh the “intellectual force” of the GOP. “And whenever a Republican criticize him, they have to run back and apologize to him, and say they were misunderstood,” he observed. Today, ThinkProgress first reported that Steele dismissed Limbaugh as an “entertainer” this weekend on CNN:
STEELE: So let’s put it into context here. Let’s put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.
Limbaugh fired back on his show today, sneering at Steele’s leadership of the Republican Party:
“So I am an entertainer and I have 20 million listeners because of my great song and dance routine,” Limbaugh said. “Michael Steele, you are head of the Republican National Committee. You are not head of the Republican party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the Republican National Committee…and when you call them asking for money, they hang up on you.
Just as Emanuel predicted, Steele has quickly backed down. Politico reports that Steele “reached out” to Limbaugh today to say that he didn’t mean what he said.
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “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,” Steele 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.”
Steele made clear that he will welcome Limbaugh into the party,” calling him a “very valuable conservative voice for our party.” “He does what he does best, which is provoke,” Steel said. “My job is to try to bring us all together.”
Steele isn’t alone. Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) have previously dared to criticize Limbaugh but then quickly backed down. To quote Rush, a lot of Republicans are being told to “bend over and grab the ankles” for him.
Check out ThinkProgress’s latest posts on Rush Limbaugh here.