Don't cross Rush Limbaugh

Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey had the temerity to criticize Rush Limbaugh; after a wave of criticism, he's apologized.

By Alex Koppelman

Published January 28, 2009 8:05PM (EST)

Well, as of today, we know who wears the pants in the GOP. If you were wondering, it's not the party's elected officials.

Tuesday, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) criticized radio host Rush Limbaugh for his attacks on the party's congressional leadership. "I think that our leadership, Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, are taking the right approach,” Gingrey told Politico. “I mean, it’s easy if you’re Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or even sometimes Newt Gingrich to stand back and throw bricks. You don’t have to try to do what’s best for your people and your party. You know you’re just on these talk shows and you’re living well and plus you stir up a bit of controversy and gin the base and that sort of that thing. But when it comes to true leadership, not that these people couldn’t be or wouldn’t be good leaders, they’re not in that position of John Boehner or Mitch McConnell."

One day later, apparently cowed by the angry response he received, Gingrey was singing a different tune. His office released this statement:

Because of the high volume of phone calls and correspondence received by my office since the Politico article ran, I wanted to take a moment to speak directly to grassroots conservatives. Let me assure you, I am one of you... As long as I am in the Congress, I will continue to fight for and defend our sacred values. I have actively opposed every bailout, every rebate check, every so called “stimulus.” And on so many of these things, I see eye-to-eye with Rush Limbaugh. Regardless of what yesterday’s headline may have read, I never told Rush to back off. I regret and apologize for the fact that my comments have offended and upset my fellow conservatives -- that was not my intent. I am also sorry to see that my comments in defense of our Republican Leadership read much harsher than they actually were intended, but I recognize it is my responsibility to clarify my own comments.

Now more than ever, we need to articulate a clear conservative message that distinguishes our values and our approach from those of liberal Democrats who are seeking to move our nation in the wrong direction. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Newt Gingrich, and other conservative giants are the voices of the conservative movement’s conscience. Everyday, millions and millions of Americans -- myself included -- turn on their radios and televisions to listen to what they have to say, and we are inspired by their words and by their determination.

The congressman also called in to Limbaugh's show to apologize. "I want to express to you and all your listeners my very sincere regret for those comments I made yesterday… I clearly ended up putting my foot in my mouth… I regret those stupid comments," Gingrey said.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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