Over the past week, newly-minted RNC chair Michael Steele has been engaged in a tit-for-tat with conservative radio talker Rush Limbaugh over who the leader of the GOP is. “I am the de facto leader of the Republican Party,” Steele argued last Saturday on CNN. Steele then jabbed Limbaugh, saying his “whole thing” is “entertainment,” “incendiary,” and “ugly.”
Since then, Steele has been squirming under pressure from Limbaugh’s allies. Not only did he later apologize for crossing Limbaugh, but he refused to say yesterday whether or not he agreed with Limbaugh’s hope that President Obama fails. “My personal opinion doesn’t matter in this,” he said. Now, Steele is denying he criticized Limbaugh at all, telling Sean Hannity last night that he never attacked him in the first place:
STEELE: The point that I’ve been trying to make which is if you go back and listen to that [CNN] exchange, there was no attack on Rush. I was saying that there are people out there who actually want to demonize and use him as a boogie man, but also say that what he is saying is ugly and divisive.
Going back to the tape, as Steele suggested, one can easily see that Steele never attributed his attacks on Limbaugh to “people out there.” In fact, Steele himself called Limbaugh’s “thing” “incendiary” and “ugly”:
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.
Steele’s public gaffes — such as giving “slum love” to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and throwing a shout out to “one-armed midgets” — are now worrying key party leaders “that the GOP has made a costly mistake” in going with him as RNC chair.
And despite bowing down to Limbaugh, Steele apparently still has confidence in his firebrand credentials. “I’m in the business of ticking people off,” Steele told the Washington Post yesterday. Indeed, he is in the business of ticking everyone off — everyone except Rush Limbaugh.