It’s hard to put into words the influence that Rush Limbaugh had on American conservatism. As Donald Trump put it, the radio legend possessed a “spellbinding” talent that can never be replaced.
Fox News fans were blindsided when the former president dropped into Sean Hannity’s show for a surprise interview Wednesday night after the heartbreaking news broke that Limbaugh had died from lung cancer. He was 70.
Trump surprises Fox with Rush tribute
In a touching interview, Trump remembered Limbaugh as “just a totally brilliant guy,” the one and only “king” who changed talk radio forever and who understood Trump’s populist message long before Trump’s historic 2016 campaign.
“I got to know him right after coming down the escalator,” the former president said, referring to the famous escalator ride that kicked off his campaign at Trump Tower, according to the Daily Mail. “He was there right from the beginning.”
Trump honored Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last February at his State of the Union address, shortly after the radio host revealed his terminal cancer diagnosis. “It was an amazing night because the Republicans went wild and the Democrats sat there, but they all respected Rush,” Trump said, according to Fox.
“He was fighting till the very end”
In a separate, surprise interview immediately after the news broke, Trump told Fox that he had spoken with the radio host “three or four days ago” and said he had been “very brave” in his last months and days.
“He was fighting till the very end. He was a fighter, just a great gentleman,” the former president said of Limbaugh. Take a look at his Wednesday talk with Hannity:
“Spellbinding”: Millions mourn loss of icon
Trump has often been compared to Limbaugh, who built a massive grassroots audience — the biggest in all of radio — over the course of three decades. Like Trump, people either loved him or hated him. His critics called him the “most dangerous man in America,” a title he proudly adopted.
To liberals, Limbaugh was a bigoted loudmouth and a liar. But for millions of conservatives, he was a warrior who stood up for their values against a cultural assault by a left-wing elite, and what he called the “drive-by media.” Prominent conservatives have responded to his death with tributes to his influence and talent.
Hannity acknowledged that Fox News likely would not exist without him, while Bill O’Reilly, the one-time king of cable, said that Limbaugh “provided a conservative balance against the dangerous left wing corporate media machine.”
Trump also paid a touching tribute Wednesday to Limbaugh’s singular ability as a broadcaster. “He could just talk for three hours, no phone calls, no anything, just talk,” Trump told Hannity, according to Fox. “Everybody found it spellbinding.”