Former President Donald Trump called into Fox News Wednesday after news broke of conservative media icon Rush Limbaugh, who succumbed to his year-long battle with lung cancer at the age of 70 and praised the talk show host as a “legend.”
“There’s a lot of people in the room and they’re all very sad to see that Rush passed away. He’s really is a legend. He really is there aren’t too many legends around, but he was,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox News with Harris Faulkner and Bill Hemmer during the network’s breaking news coverage. “He is a legend and to those people that listened to him every day like. It was like a religious experience for a lot of people that have been his fans, they just wouldn’t miss him. He was a very, very unique person.”
Trump recalled how he first met Limbaugh during the beginning of his 2016 presidential campaign and how he was one of the first national media personalities to back his candidacy that would develop into a “very good friendship.”
“He became a friend of mine. You know, I didn’t know Rush at all,” Trump explained. “You know, I didn’t know Rush at all. I had essentially never met Rush, and then, when we came down the escalator, he liked my rather controversial speech. I made that speech that was a little bit on the controversial side, and he loved it.”
“And he was — without ever having met him or talked to him or, you know, had lunch with him or that stuff, he was with me right from the beginning, and he liked what I said, and he agreed with what I said, and he was just a great gentleman — great, great man,” Trump added.
The former president revealed that he did tell Rush ahead of last year’s State of the Union Address that he was going to award him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom due to his condition.
“So I did tell him beforehand because we didn’t have really the power of not doing it. You know Rush was very sick at the time. He was at a hospital in Boston, and I didn’t want to do the surprise thing,” Trump revealed. “I wish I could have done that but we really didn’t have that power of doing it, because it was a very difficult thing for him to come into Washington from where he was. And he did it. He was just a very brave guy. It’s amazing.”
Last February, Trump awarded the conservative icon with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during his State of the Union address, a day after Rush revealed his diagnosis to the public.
“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Here tonight is a special man, he’s loved by millions of Americans, who just received a stage IV advanced cancer diagnosis,” Trump said in his 2020 State of the Union address. “This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
Trump said he had spoken with Limbaugh “three or four days ago” and recalled how the legend of conservative talk radio conducted his show that had an audience of over 20-30 million.
“Rush is irreplaceable, unique. He had an audience that was massive. I’ve heard as many as 39 million people — you know, that’s an audience that you don’t hear about anymore. He would get up in the show and just talk. He wouldn’t take phone calls, where people would call in every two minutes. That’s sort of easy to do. He would just talk for two hours or three hours, just talk,” Trump said. “That’s not an easy thing to do. I once asked him, I said, ‘Do you study for the show?’ He said, ‘Actually, I study very hard,’ which a little bit surprised me. He was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent. People, whether they loved him or not, they respected him. They really did.”
After calling into Fox News to honor his friend, Trump released an official statement.
“The great Rush Limbaugh has passed away to a better place, free from physical pain and hostility,” Trump said in a formal statement later issued by his office. “Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our country stands for. Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans—a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves. Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence also joined Fox News shortly after Trump to remember the iconic host’s legacy.
“Rush Limbaugh gave voice to the ideals and values that made this country great, he inspired a generation of American conservatives, and he will be deeply missed. Rush Limbaugh made Conservatives proud and he made Conservatism fun,” Pence said on Fox.
Former First Lady Melania Trump reacted to the announcement on Twitter.
“Rush was a fearless American patriot. He made countless contributions to society and leaves behind an unforgettable legacy,” Melania tweeted. “Praying for Kathryn and the entire Limbaugh family.”
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn announced his death at the top of his syndicated radio show Wednesday.
“For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show. It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer,” Kathryn said on his show Wednesday.
Fox News released a press release informing that the entirety of Wednesday evening’s show, “will be dedicated to memorializing Limbaugh.” It added that its 9 pm Eastern broadcast of Hannity will also feature an interview with Trump “to discuss the life and legacy of radio pioneer Rush Limbaugh.”