Former President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE on Wednesday broke the media silence he's held since leaving office to call into Fox News and reflect on his relationship with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died at the age of 70.
Trump called into Fox News's "Outnumbered" within an hour of the news breaking of Limbaugh's death. The former president had yet to do any media interviews since leaving the White House on Jan. 20, even as his second impeachment trial unfolded and Republican lawmakers argued over his role in the party's future.
Those topics did not come up on Wednesday, and Trump instead spent the interview warmly describing Limbaugh and recalling how supportive he had been throughout his brief political career.
"He is a legend. He really is. There aren’t too many legends around. But he is a legend," Trump said. "And those people who listen to him every day, it was like a religious experience for a lot of people."
Trump said he had spoken to Limbaugh in recent days as the radio host's condition worsened following a diagnosis of cancer. The former president praised Limbaugh as "street smart" and a "great gentleman."
"He thought we were going to win," Trump said of Limbaugh's 2016 support. "I don’t think it was necessarily the reason he was so gracious so early. He just had an incredible instinct for politics and he had an incredible instinct for life."
Limbaugh was one of Trump's early supporters in the 2016 GOP primary, despite the two men not knowing each other particularly well at the time, according to Trump. The ex-president noted the radio host "liked my rather controversial speech" when he first announced his candidacy at Trump Tower.
Trump awarded Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union in 2020, honoring his contributions to media and the conservative movement.
Limbaugh remained a supporter through the 2020 campaign, hosting Trump on his show multiple times, including at one point for roughly two hours.
After Trump lost the 2020 election, Limbaugh was among those who pushed false claims of election fraud, sowing doubt about the legitimacy of President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE's victory.
Trump nodded to those claims himself in Wednesday's interview, signaling he still has not accepted his own defeat.
"I think it's disgraceful, what happened," he said. "We were like a third-world country on election night with the closing down of centers. ... You don't know how angry this country is, and people were furious."
The Fox hosts made a point to avoid straying away from the topic of Limbaugh's death, despite Trump a day earlier issuing an extraordinary statement attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse to act on debt ceiling next week White House warns GOP of serious consequences on debt ceiling Lindsey Graham: Police need 'to take a firm line' with Sept. 18 rally attendees MORE (R-Ky.), which exposed a deep and likely lasting rift within the GOP.
"We probably have 100 questions for you, but so many of them are not appropriate for this venue so we’ll keep it on this topic," host Bill Hemmer said.
Limbaugh, who was diagnosed with lung cancer roughly a year ago, was a giant in conservative media who reached millions of listeners each day. His career was often marked by incendiary comments about women and Democrats.
He pushed the "birther" conspiracy about former President ObamaBarack Hussein Obama Chelsea Manning tests positive for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Tight security for Capitol rally; Biden agenda slows Obama backs Trudeau in Canadian election MORE, something Trump also did, and levied sexist attacks against law student Sandra Fluke over birth control in 2012, an incident for which he ultimately apologized.