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MATT LAUER: And now more of our rare and exclusive interview with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. This morning, his thoughts on his past addiction to painkillers and some of the most powerful names in politics. He sat down with Today national Correspondent Jamie Gangel. Jamie, good morning to you.

JAMIE GANGEL: Matt, good morning. Get ready. Here it is: What Rush really thinks about everyone, from Sarah Palin to Hillary Clinton, what he would say if President Obama invited him to the White House, and why he says his struggle with addiction is actually the best thing that ever happened to him. But we started by asking his thoughts on the next presidential race.


JAMIE GANGEL: Give me your top three picks for who will be the Republican —

RUSH: I have no idea. I’m certainly not in charge of picking them. The only thing I could do is recite names from 2008 that probably want back in it: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Huckabee. Tim Pawlenty is probably going to go in.


RUSH: But at this stage, as the “anointer” of the Republican nominee —

JAMIE GANGEL: (chuckling)

RUSH: — I’m not going to go out there now and destroy the chances of three or four other people.


RUSH: I have more compassion than that.

JAMIE GANGEL: Do you think the Republicans can win?

RUSH: Yes.

JAMIE GANGEL: Do you think they will win?

RUSH: (sigh) Too soon to say, but I think it’s entirely possible. But we do have Obama, and he’s truly polarizing the country. So there will be a significant vote against, but you gotta have somebody to vote for at the same time.

JAMIE GANGEL: If he invited you to the White House, would you go?

RUSH: Absolutely.

JAMIE GANGEL: And what would you say to him?

RUSH: Well, it depends on what he wanted me there for.

JAMIE GANGEL: Well, if he wanted to sitat the picnic table and make up and —

RUSH: Have a beer? (laughing) A beer?

JAMIE GANGEL: — less — less polarizing, more unity.

RUSH: I’ll be honest with him. I’d be… Look, the President of the United States is the President of the United States. He’s my president, too. You know, I want this country to succeed. And if he invited me up there to chat, I would owe him the dignity and honor of being honest.

JAMIE GANGEL: (off camera) Never one to hold back.

RUSH ARCHIVE: This is a joke of an administration except it’s very, very real.

JAMIE GANGEL: We asked Rush to play word association. (on camera) I say, “President Obama.” You say…?

RUSH: Disaster.

JAMIE GANGEL: Michelle Obama.

RUSH: Garden.


RUSH: Yeah. She plants a garden out there.

JAMIE GANGEL: Jimmy Carter.

RUSH: An utter disgrace and embarrassment. Sorry for the four words, but I needed them all.

JAMIE GANGEL: Sarah Palin.

RUSH: Misunderstood and underestimated.

JAMIE GANGEL: You love her.

RUSH: Well, no. Love? I admire her. People have tried to destroy her. She’s got more of a backbone than any man in the Democrat Party.

JAMIE GANGEL: George W. Bush.

RUSH: He’s just the most decent, down-to-earth, real man you could ever hope to meet.

JAMIE GANGEL: Glenn Beck. (rolling Glenn Beck b-roll) Do you worry about the new guy on the block?

RUSH: No. In 1988, I’m the only national conservative voice. Now look at conservative media. Look what I have spawned. Glenn Beck to me is, “Right on, daddy-O!” Glenn Beck is the result of my success.

JAMIE GANGEL: Hillary Clinton.

RUSH: (laughing) Nurse Ratched.

JAMIE GANGEL: Bill Clinton.

RUSH: (doing Clinton impression) (chuckles) You know, when I hear Bill Clinton’s name, I can’t help it. Ijust start channeling the guy —

JAMIE GANGEL: (stifling laughter)

RUSH: — and I can’t help it. Look, do you realize how quick and shafty I am, Jamie? Look at what I managed to pull. The Democrat Party is going to be really, really sad when I’m gone because I’m the glue holding ’em together. I mean, I’m wealthy, I sold a lot of books, I tell people I’m rich all the time, how high my tax rate is — and I still scored two million bucksfor that stimulus plan that was supposed to create jobs. Ha-ha-ha. How clever am I.

JAMIE GANGEL: You’re bad.

RUSH: It’s all true. See, great comedy has to have an element of truth in it.

RUSH: ARCHIVE: “Barack Hussein Obama! Mmm, mmm, mmm!”

JAMIE GANGEL: (off camera) Chances of that White House invitation: Not likely. But President Obama has been good for Rush. His ratings are soaring.

RUSH: ARCHIVE: The more Obama makes himself known to the public, the more the public rejects what he is selling.

JAMIE GANGEL: And personally, he says he’s never been happier. He’s lost 85 pounds and talks freely about his past struggle with addiction to prescription painkillers. (on camera) Do you struggle with any of it anymore?

RUSH: With the opiates?


RUSH: The painkillers?




RUSH: I haven’t. I haven’t had a craving —


RUSH: — which is odd, they say, but I haven’t. I haven’t had any. No struggles with it at all.

JAMIE GANGEL: What did you learn from rehab?

RUSH: You know, I actually thank God for my addiction, because I learned more about myself in rehab than I would have ever learned otherwise. There was a time where I desperately cared what people thought of me. Desperately.


RUSH: Not professionally. I always somehow knew that that didn’t matter. But personally. When you’re worried about what people think, you stop being who you are.


RUSH: And you start tailoring yourself to everybody else so that they’ll like you.

JAMIE GANGEL: You don’t worry what people think about you?

RUSH: Oh, I’d be insane if I did.


RUSH: I don’t even give people the power to offend me.


RUSH: You cannot offend me.


JAMIE GANGEL: As you know, Matt, Rush is in the news this week because he wants to buy the St. Louis Rams. It’s causing quite a bit of controversy from some of the players and his critics. But Rush says he is misunderstood and he will continue with the bid. Matt?

LAUER: All right. Jamie Gangel, fascinating interview. Thanks very much.

JAMIE GANGEL: Thank you.


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