HARRIS FAULKNER: Bill Hemmer, we are about to be joined, I understand, by the president — the former president of the United States who you know gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020 at the State of the Union address to Rush Limbaugh. Are you with me?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I am, and it was a great honor to do so. When we gave the Medal of Freedom, it was something special, it was an incredible night, and we gave it during the State of the Union address, and it was — especially half the room — half the room went crazy, and the other half of the room, they knew — they knew he should get it. But it was special, and he was special.
FAULKNER: You know, I — I’m curious —
BILL HEMMER: When was the last time you —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you.
HEMMER: — spoke with Rush Limbaugh?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Three or four days ago. I had called him just to find out — you know, his fight was very, very courageous, and he was very, very sick. And, you know, from diagnosis on, it was just something that was not going to be beaten. But you wouldn’t know it. And he is married to an incredible woman, Kathryn, who really — every time I spoke to him, he’d — he would tell me how great she was. She took such great care.
He was very brave. I mean, he, in theory, could have been gone four months ago, really. He just — he was fighting until the very end. He was a fighter. Yes, and just a great gentleman.
HEMMER: While you were — yes, while you were in the White House how did you view how he either carried on your message or chose to agree or disagree with the policies you had as commander-in-chief?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, first of all, you know, you just had Sean on — Sean Hannity, who’s incredible — and Sean would say there is nobody like Rush. Sean was the first to say that he — I used to say, well, what do you think, someday — and he’d say he’s irreplaceable. Rush is irreplaceable. Unique.
And I once asked him, I said, do you study for the show? And he said, actually I study very hard –
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — which a little bit, Harris, that a little bit surprised me. But he was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent. And people, whether they loved him or not, they respected him. They really did.
FAULKNER: President Trump, if you would stay with us for just about a minute and a half or maybe a little longer, we want to show the day that you gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Let’s watch that together, and then I have a follow-up question on the flipside.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And, Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I will now ask the first lady of the United States to present you with the honor, please.
UNKNOWN: Love you, Rush!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Rush and Kathryn, congratulations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FAULKNER: And if you are just tuning in, we are joined by president number 45, former President Donald J. Trump. President Trump, and you saw him there along with the First Lady awarding Rush Limbaugh, who has left us today, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
President Trump, I have always wondered — just seeing the look of surprise on Rush’s face, what he knew about that moment and what you learned that he was going through in that moment after. He succumbed to tears, and I was curious, what did he know was coming?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, I did tell him beforehand because we didn’t have the — 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.
I wish — I wish I could have done that, but we didn’t really have that power of doing it, because he had — it was a very difficult thing for him to come into Washington from where he was, and he did it. And there was questions as to whether or not — he was just a very brave guy. He’s amazing. And he came in, and it was — as he told me, it was the greatest honor of his life.
And everybody in the room, you know, you’re talking about the Republicans and the Democrats, you had — half of that room went crazy. You remember the evening well I’m sure. It was a very unique moment —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — in our country’s history in a sense because of who Rush is, but half went just absolutely crazy. The other half sat totally dead silent, but 100 percent of that room respected Rush. He was a unique guy, and he was a — he became a friend of mine.
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.
HEMMER: Mr. President —
FAULKNER: That is such fascinating detail that you’re giving, Mr. President about how you didn’t really know him all that well —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I didn’t, I didn’t.
FAULKNER: — yet he became someone who carried your message.
I — you know, I’m curious to know what you wanted him to know, and maybe you got to tell him in the last three or four days that you spoke, about the difference that he made for you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I think he did, and I’ve heard as many as 39 million people — you know, that’s an audience that you don’t hear about anymore. And I heard 39 million people.
And I don’t know if you remember, maybe three or four months ago, I did his show, and I heard they had a tremendous audience and it lasted for like a long time, the interview was like an hour, and it just went right through, and it — it was — his questions were fascinating — I think the show was fascinating.
He — he had a way of — he had an insight that few people have, just few people have — even really good ones — really pros in your business, and, by the way, you two are some great combination, you and Bill together, Harris, that’s a great combination that — that does incredibly well —
FAULKNER: Thank you, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And we thank you for it. We really thank you both for it.
But he was a very unique guy, and he had tremendous insight. He got it, he really got it. He was —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — he was very street smart, in a sense, and a lot of people wouldn’t know, but he was very, very street smart, he really got it.
HEMMER: Mr. President, 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 for now.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right, sure.
HEMMER: And we appreciate your time today.
Perhaps that street smarts came from growing up in the Midwest in Cape Girardeau in Missouri along the Mississippi River, later he went on to work for the Kansas City Royals and the Pittsburgh Pirates —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
HEMMER: — before he turned his attention full-time to radio in Sacramento, California.
But you just said —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
HEMMER: — something a moment ago, and Harris picked up on it, just tell us more about how you two have got to know each other. I’m thinking of 2015, the summer, 17 candidates on a stage in Cleveland —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: That’s right.
HEMMER: At what point did he concede that you were the guy and how did that come about?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I got a call from a friend of mine who was a big Rush fan, and he said, Rush loves you. I said, I don’t see that — you know, I hadn’t heard, I’m not able to listen to the radio during the afternoon too much here on the trail, and you’re making speeches or doing whatever you’re doing. I was actually making speeches and running a business. I was doing both of them simultaneously, right.
And he just told me that, and then all of a sudden, I started getting little transcript stuff. I would try to listen every once in a while, and he was there right from the beginning, and it was incredible.
And then I — I guess I called him just to thank him, and we developed just some very good friendship. We played golf together a little bit. He was a very strong guy — physically very strong — hit the ball a long way. He was — he was –
HEMMER: I guess the reason I asked that question, you think back about five years ago —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
HEMMER: — you don’t strike me as his kind of guy back then, what changed?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, I don’t know. You know, you never know about people. I like some people that nobody would think I like, and I dislike some people that everybody would say, oh, that’s — that’s a natural, we know — we all know about that, right.
I mean, you never know who you like and who you don’t like or — or where it all ends up. But right from the beginning, he was so great, and, you know, and I — I have a — a very beautiful weakness. I always seem to like people that like me, OK, you know, it’s much easier.
When they don’t like me, I tend not to go for them so much.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, call that a strength or call that a weakness, but that — but that’s the way it is. But Rush was so gracious and so great.
So, then over a period of time, I got to know him, and he loved this country. He loved the country, he loved his wife and his family, and he loved his fans — his — his audience, which was, I think maybe the biggest ever. There’s never been anything like it.
You know, when Sean says irreplaceable, he really means it too, he’s irreplaceable.
HEMMER: What did he share with you after the election on November 3rd?
FAULKNER: You know, I’m curious Mr. — Mr. President —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, go ahead Harris.
FAULKNER: I’m — I’m curious to know if he gave you a note or two or if he had some advice for you at — at any point along the way?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: So, he was — again, it was very early, because, you know that famous escalator ride was the very beginning —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — and he was one of the people that said we were going to win. He thought we were going to win. I don’t think it was necessarily the reason he was so, you know, gracious so early. But he thought we were going to win.
He just had an incredible instinct for politics, and he had an incredible instinct for life.
I mean, he was just — so I just — I walked into a room and there’s a lot of people in the room, and they’re all very sad to see — people that you wouldn’t even think about, like, with respect to Rush, but they’re very sad to see that Rush passed away.
He’s really — he is a legend, he really is. There aren’t too many legends around. But he was — he is a legend.
And to those people that listen to him every day, like — it was like a religious experience for a lot people. I mean, the — his fans, they just wouldn’t miss him. A very, very unique person.
HEMMER: Yes, Mr. President, hang on one second here, we’ve got a Fox News alert.
We’ve reached one o’clock on the East Coast. It is one o’clock in Palm Beach, Florida, where the news of Rush Limbaugh is now starting to spread across the country and around the world.
Rush Limbaugh, the iconic radio — conservative radio host dead at the age of 70, succumbing to lung cancer after a 12-and-a-half-month battle.
By telephone, former President Trump continues with us today. And, sir, thank you again for your time. I was trying to jump in there a moment ago, I apologize for that Harris.
What did —
FAULKNER: Oh, no worries.
HEMMER: — did Rush Limbaugh tell you after the election of November 3? What were those conversations like?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, Rush thought we won — and so do I, by the way. I think — I think we won by a — substantially, and Rush thought we won. And he thought it was over at 10 o’clock, 10:30 it was over. And a lot of other people feel that way too, but Rush felt that way strongly. And many people do, many professionals do.
And I don’t think that could have happened to a Democrat. You would have had — you would have had riots going all over the place if that happened to a Democrat. We don’t have the same support in the — at certain levels of the Republican system, but we have great people as Republicans.
But Rush felt we won, and he was quite angry about it, quite angry.
HEMMER: Yes, over the next two months how much contact did you have —
FAULKNER: Yes —
HEMMER: — about that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, quite a bit, but he was really sick.
You know, Rush, his ambition, if you go back to, you know, after he had heard the diagnosis — because it was a very, very — you know, a very bad thing he had. It’s not something like, oh, gee, you know, you’ll be better in two weeks. And so, he got the word, and it was terminal, and absolutely terminal, and his ambition —
FAULKNER: You —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — and it was quite a bit away, but his ambition was to hold out until after the election, and he worked so hard, and he missed very, very few shows. I mean, he’d go up to wherever he was going, which was quite a ways away, and he’d get back to his studio and do his show.
He worked so hard to get through the election, and he was just — he was just great. He made it.
FAULKNER: We are graciously joined by president number 45, Donald J. Trump, remembering Rush Limbaugh.
And, you know, one of the things you said earlier really made an impression on me in terms of how you became friends, how you came to know each other. And that he knew almost instantly that you were the one he wanted to support.
You know, I — I’m curious, Mr. President, what did you talk about with Rush Limbaugh, if you had the opportunity before he was too ill to do so, about what might be next for you?
He seemed — and I know because I’ve talked with him — he is a man of vision.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
FAULKNER: But, he also —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes.
FAULKNER: — likes the art of what is coming next that you can’t predict.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: True. Right.
FAULKNER: But, did you talk about that?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Yes, he was truly a man of the future. He loved this country so much. He loved the people of this country so much. He was so happy with what we did, we rebuilt the military — you know, all things that he — that he liked. We cut taxes, that we cut regulations, which maybe is even more important than the tax cuts, frankly. That’s why we built that foundation that can propel us, if it’s not messed up.
But Rush was just somebody that — he loved talking about the country and the future. He was very much a future person. And he was very proud of the country.
He was very disappointed by certain things that happened in the country and that, you know, just have been happening in the country — very, very disappointed.
But, he thinks that it will all work out, it will all work out very well. He was just something special. And he would express it very well in the show.
I mean, he was — he was very open. I think that’s why his show did so well. He was very open to his listeners, to his fans, of which there were record numbers.
FAULKNER: Did he say to you what role he would like to see you play next?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, we didn’t talk too much about that. I didn’t want to talk about that too much either, because I was disappointed by voter tabulation. I think it’s disgraceful what happened.
We were like a third-world country on election night with the closing down of the centers and all of the things that happened late in the evening, and he was furious at it, and many people are furious. You don’t know how angry this country is — and people were furious.
But he was — he was somebody, at the same time, you know, he thinks about the past, but he projects out to the future. That was Rush.
I mean, he wants to learn from the past and get things fixed, but he was — he was somebody that really felt that was a very important victory for us. We should have – we should have had it, that we did have it, but he was somebody that felt that was a very important election, and I did too. I mean, I did too. You see what’s happening now.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: And so, you know — but maybe more than anything else, we just became very friendly, and he could talk about any subject, I mean, whether it’s politics or sports. As you know, Bill, you mentioned –
FAULKNER: Sports for sure.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — his sports career. I mean, he loved sports. He loved any sport. It didn’t matter, any sport. He could talk about any sport.
He was a conversationalist. He was a brilliant guy, didn’t get enough credit for that. Totally brilliant, and he was a conversationalist, and he was unique. He was unique. He had a way —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — maybe it was the voice. You know, you never know, why does somebody have more viewers? Why do you have more viewers than other people that compete against you two? You never know. You know, it’s something. It’s something. There’s something in the air. It’s the voice or the brainpower. Whatever it is, he had something very special.
HEMMER: In a political sense, Mr. President, either during the primary fight of 2016 leading up to that election or the —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Right.
HEMMER: — four years you were in the White House, did you feel a political need to go to Rush Limbaugh knowing that he is — you know, he is a kingmaker in so many conservative circles? Did you ever get that sense that Limbaugh could help you on said issue?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, because it happened so early, Bill, you know, his support, you know, it wasn’t like, wow, let’s now start to get people on board, because when I ran a lot of people didn’t think I would win, because I had never done it before — they said you needed experience and you needed all of those things, and I understand that — but Rush felt very early that, you know, we’re going to win.
He talked from the escalator ride down. I mean, I think before the speech, if you want to know the truth.
But no, I never had to think about it, because he was there so early. The only thing I did do is, I got to know him, and I got to know him because he was so gracious.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: He was so good to me, so gracious. Amazing.
HEMMER: Yes. Just pause one moment here. We have a clip we want to play for our audience here. This is Rush Limbaugh talking about you, talking about optimism. Watch.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: OK.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH: The day that Lou Gehrig announced that he had his disease that was forcing him to retire from Major League Baseball, he said to the sold-out Yankee Stadium, “Today I feel like the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
And I didn’t understand that. I mean, here’s a guy who had just been diagnosed with the most terminal of terminal diseases, and I said, this can’t be real — he can’t really think he’s the luckiest guy in the world. This is just something that he’s saying because it will play well. I don’t – I don’t mean to be insulting Lou Gehrig. Don’t misunderstand it. I’m just thinking, how in the world if you’re being honest can you feel like you’re the luckiest man on the face of the Earth?
Well, when I got my diagnosis, and when I began to receive all of the outpouring of love and affection from everywhere in my life, from so many of you in so many ways and from my family who, man, they have supported me my entire career, even during times it would’ve been understandable and easy for them to say, Rush, who? We don’t know this guy. But that never happened.
I mean, I’ve been totally supported by virtually everybody in my family. I have been propped up. I have been defended. I have been made to look better than I am.
My lovely wife, Kathryn, has done so much in that regard. She has done so much with RushLimbaugh.com and with the charitable efforts that we have engaged in.
And all of it has been to my benefit. All of it has been for the — and yours. It’s the benefit of people who are the recipients of our efforts.
So many people have put me first in all of this, and I understand now what Lou Gehrig meant, because I certainly feel like that. I feel extremely fortunate and lucky.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Mr. President, I know we only have you for another minute or so, and I just wanted you to react to that, because that is a man who has — who has seen his life from a position of being so incredibly grateful for what he has and what he’s accomplished in this country.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: He was just, you know, something incredible, but he really loved his family. He loved Kathryn.
HEMMER: Yes. Thank you for your time, sir. I know we — we’d love to have you back, because we have a lot more ground to cover, right, Harris, in addition to the passing of Rush Limbaugh.
FAULKNER: Oh, Mr. President, definitely we do, but it says so much —
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you.
FAULKNER: — when someone passes who you love and who you’ve come to know, and you recognize the relationships in their life. It says so much to have someone call in and talk about you. My mother used to say, let others praise you; that shows what you’ve done.
So, it’s wonderful to have you here with your voice, Mr. President, at this time of loss.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, thank you. He was a great man, and he deserves it –
FAULKNER: All right.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: — and thank you both very much.
HEMMER: Yes. We will speak again.
HEMMER: Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Goodbye.