Trump Says Rush Limbaugh Is Who Made Him President

( Former President Donald Trump remembered conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh as being a “legend” and “irreplaceable” on Thursday.

Limbaugh, the well-known radio personality, passed away this week after battling advanced lung cancer for a year. His wife Kathryn made the announcement on his radio program Wednesday.

Speaking for the first time since leaving the White House, Trump praised Limbaugh, saying the host was very helpful to his political rise. Limbaugh was a staunch Trump supporter since the former president began campaigning in 2016.

On Fox News Thursday, Trump was asked whether Limbaugh made a “difference” to his political rise. He said:

“I think he did. I’ve heard as many as 39 million people [listen to his show]. He is a legend. There aren’t too many legends around, and to those people who listen to him every day, it was like a religious experience for a lot of people.”

Model projections that the EIB network released in May revealed that 43 million people tuned into Limbaugh’s show over a three-hour time period. Nielsen estimated his listeners to total roughly 15.5 million people. Limbaugh was, undoubtedly, the conservative radio host with the largest audience.

Back in 2015, Limbaugh received a lot of criticism from conservatives for giving airtime on his show to Trump’s campaign. At the time, though, he did say that he expected Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, to eventually win the Republican nomination. His reasoning was the “establishment” wouldn’t allow Trump to appear on the ballot.

During a January 2016 show, Limbaugh said:

“If you look at the coalition Trump has put together, it is everything that the Republican Party claims they want, and they don’t want it with Trump in charge of it. They don’t want it with Trump being the guy that attracts it. So, it’s more than just anti-conservatism and anti-base. It’s also anti-Trump.”

Limbaugh didn’t outright endorse Trump for the Republican nomination, but he certainly saw that he had plenty of potential. He said Trump had the “largest bloc of voters” Republicans said they needed to win the election, but they were rejecting Trump because “they are content to lose if winning means conservatives dominate the party.”

Once Trump officially garnered the Republican nomination that May, Limbaugh jumped right on board. He predicted that Trump would beat Democrat Hillary Clinton “in a landslide.”

While Trump said he didn’t know Limbaugh well before he decided to run for president, he said the two eventually developed a “very good friendship” over the last four years. He told Fox News:

“He was there right from the beginning. He was one of the people who said we were going to win [in 2016] … he just had an incredible instinct for politics and an incredible instinct for life.”

Trump said he last spoke to Limbaugh a few days ago, when he called to check to see how the radio host was doing. The former president said Limbaugh was “fighting until the very end.”