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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Pat Sajak Interviews Rush Limbaugh

Aired May 3, 2001 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAT SAJAK, GUEST HOST: He is tops in talk radio and he speaks his mind, millions listen! The one an only Rush Limbaugh for the hour. We'll take your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Hi, everybody, Pat Sajak in for Larry King tonight with the major mogul of the excellence in broadcasting network.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: Nice to be here.

SAJAK: ... the man who -- with talent on loan from God.

LIMBAUGH: Highly trained broadcast specialist ready to go.

SAJAK: The man who will one day give the opening remarks at the Rush Limbaugh wing of the museum of...

LIMBAUGH: No, somebody else will do that, but I'll have my own wing in the museum.

SAJAK: Did I get everything in?

LIMBAUGH: You did, you got it all in, without any rehearsal too.

SAJAK: Rush Limbaugh, great to see you.

LIMBAUGH: Thanks very much to have me. It's good to be here.

SAJAK: You know, all that stuff is fun, the bombast portion of the program, let's call it -- and I mean that affectionately. It's great humor, and do the people listening get it, do they...

LIMBAUGH: Oh, yes, I think it's -- well, there is still a giant tune-in factor going on. It will be 14 years August 1.

SAJAK: All 500 stations?

LIMBAUGH: About 598.

SAJAK: That is...

LIMBAUGH: Five hundred and ninety-eight, and there is still people tuning in for the first time now and then, and that is always fun, because they hear stuff like -- I did -- the one that really gets them is "talent on loan from God," and I will get e-mail: "You think you're God?"

No, no, no, I'm thanking God for the blessings that I have been given, and then they understand it. But it is -- I think there is a lot of competition out there. There is a lot of people doing talk radio, and there is a lot of people that other conservatism -- and I think you have to cut through the noise, and I've just decided to do that with my personality.

SAJAK: And do you -- for people who don't hear the show -- there are people who don't like you who have never heard the show?

LIMBAUGH: No. They may not like me, but they listen.

SAJAK: Well, but there are those who read selected quotes, and that sort of thing. This guy is this, and this guy is that, and they don't -- I don't think you get enough -- enough is said about the humor. Because it's a very funny show, and I mean that as a compliment. Politics doesn't have to be all straight-laced stuff, I mean it is fun.

LIMBAUGH: It is laughable at times.

SAJAK: And it is laughable, exactly. But the most important issue is the one we have to get in right now: what happened to the rest of you? Wasn't there a lot more of Rush Limbaugh?

LIMBAUGH: There used to be. Four years ago, there was a 100 or so more pounds of me.

SAJAK: You are my size now! This is...

LIMBAUGH: Well, not quite, but I'm on my way.

SAJAK: I'm afraid that people tuning in will think I have gotten to be your size, when in fact you've gotten to be mine. You look great.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you.

SAJAK: Was this a -- health directive from someone, a wife, a doctor?

LIMBAUGH: No, it was -- it was -- it were -- it was health- related. It had to do with diabetes in my family, and I had gotten to the point where my blood sugar level was getting dangerously high. That scares you. I mean, my father died prematurely from diabetes.

SAJAK: How old was your father?

LIMBAUGH: 72, and he didn't take care of it. He learned he had it when he was 54. Didn't take care of it. And -- it was interesting when I learned that I had the blood sugar level bordering on diabetic levels, I weighed 320. And all I had to do was lose 15 pounds, and the blood sugar normalized. It got down to normal levels, and I kept going, and I had tried every diet there is. They all work. Problem is that if it's a diet, it ends, and you go off it. And they all stop working when you go off of them. And some of them, you gain weight faster than others, when you go off -- my objective was to find a way to eat that would lose weight that I could stay on the rest of my life...

SAJAK: So, you don't consider yourself to be on a diet? You just eat a sensible kind of...

LIMBAUGH: I don't deprive myself of anything now. During the initial phase of weight loss, you have to deprive yourself. Mine was a low-fat regimen primarily. Had to keep yourself away from high concentrations of fatty foods, salted snacks, dairy products and that sort of thing.

But you can't go through life depriving yourself of things. It is not normal. You are not going to be content, much less happy. So you have to be able to eat whatever you want at times. Do it on a once-a-month basis or once-every-two-weeks basis, so that you are not depriving yourself. So I eat pretty much what I want now and then, and I have, for some reason, with this diet I kept it off for four years, and it's the easiest I have ever had with it.

SAJAK: We -- though we don't know each other, we are -- our auras crossed in a kind of strange way 10 or 12 years ago. I was doing a late night for CBS television, a show that was going so well that they actually auditioned replacements for me on the air, and you were one of those who did an evening once -- essentially a pilot, I would call it, for a show, and I didn't see the show, I have never seen the tape.

LIMBAUGH: You didn't see the show?

SAJAK: ... but it is legendary around CBS. It was a bit of an exciting evening for you.

LIMBAUGH: Well, it's -- for those of you who have not seen this, it's going to be tough to describe it. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time on it -- but it was a Friday night -- and you are right, they were doing a series of auditions, although nobody was certain that's what was going on. It was thought, and...

SAJAK: I suspected it.

LIMBAUGH: Well, the -- I don't know if it was necessarily an audition for that slot, by the way, but I know that they were auditioning talent for various things. And the -- they had a series of producers that had nothing do with your show that were assigned to this one, and the audience was totally stacked against me, it was...

SAJAK: Studio audience.

LIMBAUGH: Studio audience was entirely stacked against me, and I -- to this day, I don't know, and I'm being very charitable here -- I don't know if it was done on purpose, with the intent to sabotage my effort, or if it was done on purpose as a result of a misunderstanding during production meetings about some of the things I said I might find challenging and eager to do.

SAJAK: But it was all scary, I understand.

LIMBAUGH: Well, look -- there was -- one woman actually hit me.

SAJAK: Oh, that's...

LIMBAUGH: When I went into audience to interview people, she actually hit me and told me she hated my guts, and I maintain that most people in the audience had no idea who I was. I had only been on the radio two years. I think they had been -- their emotions have been fanned by whoever.

SAJAK: If he comes out here, hit him.

LIMBAUGH: Well, they -- the audience was so big that they had a satellite room set up down the hall for people to be in the so-called live audience with a little monitor that they were watching. I had to go down there, and those people -- they were in the right place.

SAJAK: Well, despite that, you lived well, you prospered.

LIMBAUGH: Yes.

SAJAK: And you did move onto television eventually. You did a television series.

There is an old joke in broadcasting: "You have a great face for radio." That is not the joke I'm making on you, but I an wondering if you have a format and a style and just a disposition that finds it move comfortable on the radio. Do you think so?

LIMBAUGH: Well, yes, but -- it is more comfortable on radio only -- for two reasons. I grew up in radio. And the great thing, I think, about radio is that there are no pictures, the audience, the listener provides them with the aid and talent of the host.

If you are really going to listen to radio, not just have it on passively in the background like elevator music is, but if you really going to listen to it, you are using more than just your sense of hearing. You are using many facets of your mind -- your sense of smell, your sense of sight, and so forth, and so you are actively involved in it.

TV turns you into a vegetable. You just sit there, and just soak up like a sponge whatever they show you, because they do all the work for you, they do all the creativity for you. And, as such, it was -- it was always tough for me to be spontaneous on TV because I am on the radio -- many times at five minutes to 12:00 noon, I don't know what the first item I'm going lead with is going to be.

SAJAK: But you have to know on television, because people have to...

(CROSSTALK) LIMBAUGH: You plan! I have led in 14 years -- it will be 14 years in August -- I have yet to have a meeting to do my three-hour radio show. For that television show, it took two 90-minute meetings...

SAJAK: Bless you...

LIMBAUGH: Every day for a 22-minute show! And it was all about ordering things, looking at videos, and going: "Is this good? Do you sit through it? No, I don't want to use it" -- well, somebody says -- and it was -- I tell you what it was. There were a lot of great associate producers who were working hard all day culling video, and half of it you don't want to use but you do so that they won't get unhappy.

SAJAK: Yes, it's hard to make a personal show out of a television show. We're just going started with Rush Limbaugh. We have lots more to go. Stick around, we'll be taking your calls later. And we'll be back with Rush Limbaugh in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: We're back with Rush Limbaugh on LARRY KING LIVE. Pat Sajak in for Larry tonight. And talking about the radio show, which is heard by, on a good day -- on a good day, how many people tune in?

LIMBAUGH: Well, two ways of measuring: The average quarter hour, meaning at any one moment, is between 4 1/2 and 5 million people. The weekly accum is around 20 to 22 now. We had a huge bump in the post- election aftermath, the fall 2000 numbers were way up, and we are getting the winter. The first book of the winter: January, February, March. And those numbers are being held. It is a great year so far, ratings wise.

SAJAK: It's been an interesting run. You would think that your ratings would vary a lot more than they do, based on the events of the day. It happens with a lot of...

LIMBAUGH: See, this is one of the problems I have always had with program directors in radio. To this day, there are program directors at radio stations who pray for major events, for audience tune-in factor.

And I always say, it is up to the host to get an audience. I wrote a book once; the first chapter in my success is not determined by who wins elections. I got a note today from a friend: "Boy, slow news day."

There's no such thing as a slow news day to me. I am the show. The news is just the stuff I use to bounce off of. The news -- the stuff in the news is just the diving board or the springboard for me to be me on a daily basis.

This notion -- it is a built-in excuse for people who say, there is no news today, OK, so you are not expecting any audience. If you don't expect it, you are not going to get it. My objective is to do better today than I did yesterday, better tomorrow than I did today, to exceed expectations that people have.

And it is a compulsion that I have in that regard. And as such, I do not -- you know, in fact, some of these big news days, like the post-election aftermath, they are the most stressful. It's like an oral final exam everyday. Because many people look at me, rightly so, as the final authority on some of this stuff.

I have got to be there for them. I've -- I can't lazy it out, I can't take it easy, I've got to meet those expectations. And sometimes, that is the challenge of it. And on those occasions, you've got to pull back on the humor just a little because people are taking some of that stuff very seriously.

SAJAK: That sounds like -- are we losing our sense of humor about politics?

LIMBAUGH: About everything, Pat!

SAJAK: It does seem to be, as a society, our humor is being drained out...

LIMBAUGH: People can't laugh at anything without being accused of being a racist, sexist, bigot, homophobe, or whatever -- everybody's wound too tight. We have way too much time on our hands. We have so much time, we can wait around to be offended.

And there is a whole cadre of industry: special interest groups that do it. That's their whole purpose in life, is to be offended, and then level some charge via the government at somebody to either shut them down and make it tougher for them to do whatever they do.

It really -- there are so many people uptight and I have always thought, that you should just lighten up and enjoy things. Everything that happens for the most part has got some humor in it. And for good humor to work, it has got to have truth in it. It's a fundamental element.

SAJAK: Sure. You are not there doing jokes.

LIMBAUGH: No. The only thing I do for people you talked about at beginning of the program who may -- even though it's very hard for me to believe -- have never heard me.

SAJAK: They're not there every day.

LIMBAUGH: Well, the -- look, I have said, I'm not retiring until every American agrees with me, not just listens to me, agrees.

SAJAK: I have never associated word retiring with you.

LIMBAUGH: OK. Good.

SAJAK: Go ahead.

LIMBAUGH: The point is that the situation that we work in today, demands that you treat everything with some sort of reverence, but at the same time, you've got to be able to see the humor in it, at the same time you see the truth. And, if -- if you -- if you -- this is what bothers people about humor that offends them: it is true.

The truth is what bothers people; it's when you barrel them with the truth. That is what they don't want; that is what offends them sometimes -- you shouldn't be saying that.

SAJAK: Have you ever gone home and on reflection, or upon getting a few e-mails or a couple letters, or talking with friends, say, you know, I went over the line, I probably -- I didn't need to -- maybe I did offend someone with this on this -- unnecessarily.

LIMBAUGH: Not on this show. When I worked in Kansas City, I did. I was -- was --

(LAUGHTER)

It was a disco music station, and they discovered -- this is back in the huge days of government regulation, you had to do certain number of hours of community service every year in order to be granted a license to operate.

And this bunch that owned the station decided near the end of the year that they were really short community service. And I was doing a midday disco music show. They said, look, you've got to start taking phone calls on topics.

I said, what topics?

And -- one of the topics was, when you die, how do you want to go? A woman called in from, I think it was Liberty, Missouri. "I want to go the cheapest and most natural way I can."

By the way, up front, I was told to do this -- this is what bothered me about it. The manager of this place, a guy named Doc, wanted insult radio. He thought it would create hubbub and so forth.

And so I said: Lady, it is easy. Have your husband throw you in a trash bag, then into the Missouri River, the rest with the garbage.

All of her friends called the radio station and complained. The management thought it was just great. I went home and called my dad, told him about it. He said: You want to kill your career, son? You just keep doing stuff like that. I mean, they may think it's great now, but if you think anybody is ever going to take that seriously, you're crazy.

Those kinds of things that they wanted me to do, I cringed when -- but this show that I'm doing. I think, in fact, doing those kinds of things are good training. You've got to know where the line is; you've got to -- and learn it yourself. You've got to lose a couple of sponsors. You know what the business aspects of this job are.

And so, I wouldn't trade anything that's happened to me or try to wipe it out, but because I did go through that, I have not regretted anything I have said on this show. SAJAK: That's quite a statement to make.

LIMBAUGH: In 14 years.

SAJAK: We have -- we can't have you here without a discussion of a couple issues of the day, and we are going to do that in just a minute.

LIMBAUGH: Goody.

SAJAK: Stay right there. He doesn't get do that enough during the day.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: Back with L. Rushbones.

LIMBAUGH: The all-knowing, all-caring, all-sensing, all-feeling, Maharishi.

SAJAK: So, what are your listeners talking about these days? Let's just touch on a couple of things.

LIMBAUGH: That doesn't matter.

SAJAK: As soon as the words came out of my mouth...

LIMBAUGH: It is key, it is key. This is not a statement of ego. The program is about what I think. The real question is, what am I talking about? I lead the show. This is not ego. I'm the trained broadcaster. I'm in total control of the show.

SAJAK: So, you mean to tell me, if you've got the switch board lit up with people who are really interested in X, and you don't think X is as important as Y, you will talk about Y.

LIMBAUGH: Happens every day. In fact, you will...

(CROSSTALK)

LIMBAUGH: Let me tell you what happens: there are a lot of things that's happened since I started this. Can I trace this very briefly from August '88 when I started this.

SAJAK: Sure.

LIMBAUGH: When I started in August '88, the only syndicated talk was at night. And, daytime versions of it were said to fail by all the experts in radio. And they told me, I would fail, not because of any lack of talent, even though they might have thought I...

SAJAK: People didn't want to hear any heavy...

LIMBAUGH: It had to be local! You had to be local. Local phone numbers, local issues, local hosts, local, local, local. And I said, why? Do you think people who watch Donahue care where he is when does the show? I said, look, as long as I'm here doesn't matter where "here" is. And I said, look, if it doesn't work, I will just join the long line of valiant failures. So, we tried it and it worked, which spawned a lot of competitors.

And a lot of competitors -- and liberals. They tried Mario Cuomo against me and Gary Hartpence (ph), and all competitors on the left went away. Now, there's a bunch of conservatives doing talk radio, while -- we've expanded the pie, Pat. I haven't lost any audience, but there is more people doing talk radio syndicated in the daytime than ever before.

The audience -- there is things like Free Republic now. There's talk radio on the Internet. I mean everybody is into this act now, one way or the other. My point is this: I will show up, and there maybe a full board of phone calls from people who want to get an issue discussed on my program, be it gun control, or who is being nominated for some ambassador to somewhere, and the calls do not determine what I talk about.

I went for 35 minutes today without even putting a call up. There wasn't one call that came in that the screener ran by me that I said is worth it. They were all agenda calls. They weren't responding to anything I was talking about. They were not responding to the things that I brought to the table today.

SAJAK: So, if you want to get on the show, so if you want to get on, if want you to put a call into Rush Limbaugh and get on the air, rule number one is...

LIMBAUGH: ... make the host look good. But that is not -- don't call in and be a sycophant, don't be (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You've got to be entertaining, informative, unique, or whatever. You can't be part of pack. You can't be part of a group of people that's on an agenda. You don't call and say, "You've got to support H.R. 535. Stamp it out now!" Call somebody else for that.

You are not getting on if you want to complain about the about the phone bill, unless you are from California and you want to complain about the light bill, that is now an issue. But other than that, daily consumer stuff, take it somewhere else.

Fridays I make the exception. Friday I let people do what you say. Whatever they want to talk about.

SAJAK: Open lines, yes.

LIMBAUGH: Open Line Friday. Monday through Thursday -- but this, look, this is a business. I mean, I am not -- and I don't want to offend anybody with this -- but I'm not going to leave to rank amateurs the chance for my success. If you play music, if you are a deejay, you don't play the bottom 10, you play top 10. Look at calls the same way. You search for the best calls you can. If -- some days I take five calls. They're the only five worth taking.

SAJAK: And you don't coddle your callers, it seems to me. If they kind of go off the map, or off the deep end or you dis...

LIMBAUGH: Well, sometimes I do.

(CROSSTALK)

LIMBAUGH: I mean -- I don't insult them.

SAJAK: I don't mean to hang up -- "Thanks for nothing, get out of here." -- that kind of thing. But you will attempt to set them straight or to -- you'll argue with them. You will not, you know, it is not -- it is not the kind of thing where you are just, Oh, you are a fan, you called so I'm going to be swell and agree with everything you say.

LIMBAUGH: Well, there's no syrup on this show. That is exactly right. Except -- well there is no syrup on this show.

SAJAK: OK, we'll be back to talk about some other breakfast foods in a minute. Stay with us -- Rush Limbaugh.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: So, how is the new guy doing?

LIMBAUGH: You mean the president?

SAJAK: Yes.

LIMBAUGH: I'll tell you what, I think on balance, he's fabulous. I think the Democrats are off stride. Stu Rothenberg had a piece in "Roll Call" today about how Gephardt has lost his ability to lead. His old rhetoric is just that. Daschle ditto. Democrats talking about bringing Clinton back, Pat. To speak for them. I'm not kidding now.

SAJAK: But don't you miss him?

LIMBAUGH: No, no, no.

SAJAK: You don't?

LIMBAUGH: Pat, I have so many people say to me, "Boy, you're going to miss Clinton, aren't you?" Why will I miss Clinton? "Well, your show, you wouldn't have success if it weren't for Clinton." I went from 56 to 500 stations during Bush I. I added, 4 million listeners, 5 million listeners in 150 stations, 200 stations during Clinton. With Clinton there he is so dominant, and tries to make himself a part of every news story that he does and the press loves it.

SAJAK: But don't you think the press and sort of the Washington chattering classes miss him? Because he was born for the 24 hour news cycle.

LIMBAUGH: They do. They do, but I don't. I don't want him dominating my program. The program so is much more fun with him gone. It's so much more diverse, and the liberals so are much more fun when they are out of power. Let me -- story today, just to show you how whacked out things are. It is a Reuters story, and it is obviously, it purports to be an objective story, but it's obviously not.

The writer says that Bush is using tactics to defeat the Democrats. And one of the tactics is doing what he said he would do during the campaign. That is a tactic, ladies and gentlemen. It is not honor, it's not honesty, it's not integrity. Now to liberals, being honest and doing what you say you are going to do is a tactic.

Now what does it tell you about them? It means that doing what you say you are going to do is not an option. Fraud and deceit are the primary ways of getting where you want go. I mean they can't even be honest about who they are. They will not even call themselves liberals for fear of what will happen to them at the polls. They come up with terms like "progressive," and "open-minded," and "moderate," and blah, blah, blah.

SAJAK: Like the fact that the president is not our there every day at every event, handling...

LIMBAUGH: Yes, because he is letting people know that this is not about him. He is telling us that he thinks we are the ones who make the country work. Greatest example of that was when the 24 servicemen and women came back from China. Had it been Clinton he would have been out there, "I brought you back." He'd have been out there in Hawaii, "I brought you back and I want you to shake my hand."

He'd of had a session with him before they went out to tell them how to do it, choreograph it. Bush...

SAJAK: I thought that was telling that he didn't show up.

LIMBAUGH: It's -- and he's done that in so many ways. It is a difference too between conservatives and liberals, Pat. He's got confidence. Bush has confidence in the people of this country to make it work. Liberals, by definition, don't. Liberals need dependent people. Liberals need as many people in this country as possible depending as often a day on government as they can.

Bush doesn't want them depending on government.

SAJAK: Did you know him at all before? Because you have been to the White House recently, have you not?

LIMBAUGH: Bush? Yes, I have known him since 1993.

SAJAK: Yes, and during the campaign you felt good about this guy?

LIMBAUGH: Oh, yes. In fact, it was so frustrating for me, because I have seen him up close and personal many times and I know he is a straightforward solid no-nonsense conservative. And I was forever being pummeled by friends of mine, who were dissatisfied with his dad on the conservative nature of things. He is not, he's just like his dad. He's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- he is. You are going to be shocked. He is more conservative than you are, probably, in a lot of things, and they are now telling me that they are glad I was right. But he is -- he is extremely solid.

SAJAK: What are we giving him? An "A"? "A-"?

LIMBAUGH: Well, I'll tell you this, he is not great yet, but he's poised. He's poised for greatness. Look at the things -- already, we've got $1.35 trillion tax cut. Would we have had that with Gore? We are going to reform Social Security. Democrats are all worried about -- it's not bipartisan.

Well, how many commissions have we had study Social Security over the past year, seven or eight? What did they do? Nothing,because they argued about what they were going to do. Bush said look: I won the election, I told people what I was going to do, I'm going to reform it. So the argument is not, what we are going to do, the argument is how we are going to get it done.

So we've got 14 people in there -- seven Republicans, seven Democrats -- who agree with him, and by the fall we are going to have a means to get it done. Not an argument over whether or not we are going to do it.

SAJAK: It's been going OK. More with Rush Limbaugh, on LARRY KING LIVE. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: Pat Sajak in for Larry King with our guest, Rush Limbaugh, for the entire hour, I'm happy to say.

LIMBAUGH: It's going by pretty fast.

SAJAK: It is, isn't it?

LIMBAUGH: Yes, it is.

SAJAK: Well, that means we're having a good time. Now you campaigned, if that's the word, pretty openly for Monday Night Football, the commentator slot.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, I did.

SAJAK: Which I thought was pretty gutsy, because you knew it was a long shot, and you risked sort of failing publicly at your goal of getting this thing.

Describe the process. I mean, did you -- did you get in there? Did you talk to them? Did you do an -- did you audition?

LIMBAUGH: I did, I did. I think it's safe to talk about it now. I -- I started the on-air campaign, seriously.

SAJAK: Oh, I know it was -- you were dead serious. LIMBAUGH: I seriously did it. Well, a lot of people thought that it was -- it was just a, you know, a timed stunt for ratings or so forth. And I don't do those kinds of things. I'm too spontaneous. I don't...

SAJAK: And you love the game.

LIMBAUGH: I love the game, and I would have loved the job. So I ended up getting a phone call from Don Ohlmeyer after I'd been at this a month, and he was going to be in Florida for a wedding, and we met. And he said, "Are you serious about this?" And I said, "Yes, I am."

He said, "You ever done anything like it?" I said, "No, but I'm a broadcaster and I think what's needed here." And I said, "There's too many jocks being recycled in this whole business or you keep hiring people that have demonstrably failed." And I rattled off some names, which I don't need to get into here. But its -- network television takes no risk. They really don't.

And I was posing myself as a risk, a risk worth taking.

They said they wanted buzz. They said they wanted controversy. I'm good at both of them.

(LAUGHTER)

SAJAK: Yeah.

LIMBAUGH: So he said, "Well, I'll think about it." So I went out, did an audition with Al Michaels, who looked at the playoff game -- the third -- the middle of the third quarter to the end of the game, the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans, with that controversial touchdown lateral play that Buffalo doesn't to this day believe was actually a lateral.

And I just had a sense during that audition that it stunned them. Nobody said anything to me.

SAJAK: In a good way?

LIMBAUGH: Good way, good way. And it turned out that -- that I didn't get it, and I was told that the reason why was that Don was -- was putting a whole new crew together, and this was not a Monday job, that he needed people, especially during the summer, for weeks to go at what he was calling "Ohlmeyer U.": to learn his way of doing this. It was a whole new truck team and everything else. And he said, "I just don't think you've got the time."

I said: "I could do this. Look, I wrote a book. I did a TV show every day. I've got the time." I argued with him. "No, I don't think you've got the time."

So in the process, he and I and our wives -- or his girlfriend -- and Don -- or Al Michaels and his wife and I have -- we've just become really good friends. It's one of the greatest things that's ever happened. That effort has resulted in some really tremendous friendships.

SAJAK: A big disappointment or...

LIMBAUGH: Yeah. I mean, it was, because I'll tell you truthfully, I thought, the final two weeks, I thought I had it: just the way I was being spoken to. You know, I'd get phone calls: "Where are you going to be next week?" You know, those kind of "ooh, ooh."

(UNINTELLIGIBLE) they called. They said, "Where are you going to be next week?"

And I said -- I told them where I was going to be, gave them a list of 15 phone numbers, e-mail addresses, faxes.

But when I didn't get -- sure, I was disappointed. I -- I have no idea how it would have turned out. I'm confident I could have done it. I don't know if I will ever get a chance to do anything like it again, but I have no regrets about trying.

SAJAK: But you feel you were treated -- you were treated fairly?

LIMBAUGH: Oh, yes.

SAJAK: The judgment was made based on things nonpolitical?

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, I was -- I was -- they gave me every opportunity to get this. I don't think I was -- got any less of a chance than anybody else they auditioned. I have not submitted my airfare or hotel bill yet for the trip to California to show my good faith and intentions. I absorbed that.

SAJAK: You mean you have not submitted it as yet or you...

LIMBAUGH: I'm not going. I'm not going to. But the...

SAJAK: Now, what do you think...

LIMBAUGH: But there was -- there was some question in my mind -- and it's not particularly about this; I ask it every time something like this happens -- was politics part of it? Disney is corporate. Is this something -- do I represent a political culture that they do not wish to be associated with? I probably do. Did that have a role? Who will ever know?

SAJAK: Exactly, exactly.

LIMBAUGH: I'm not going to chalk it up to that.

SAJAK: But on a human level, you felt well-treated and taken seriously...

LIMBAUGH: Oh, yes, yes. No question about it.

SAJAK: ... and in the running to the end and all?

LIMBAUGH: Yeah. SAJAK: And what do you think of Mr. Miller? Do you care to comment at all?

LIMBAUGH: Sure. Well, people asked me within, you know, the first game, preseason game and so forth. And I said to myself: Would I want people telling, especially if I had never done this before, would I want people who also haven't done it telling me what they thought I was doing bad? Well -- so I refrained from comment.

I also didn't think that it would be classy. I was in the running...

SAJAK: Sure.

LIMBAUGH: ... well-known -- it wouldn't be very classy for me, a guy who didn't get it, to sit there...

SAJAK: But as a viewer, as a viewer.

LIMBAUGH: ... and start passing judgment.

As a viewer, at first, I -- well, one thing I remember Al and Ohlmeyer saying was that his audition blew him away. So I had -- I was expecting something phenomenal, and when I didn't get the phenomenal, I said, well, I wonder what happened in that audition,

And I thought as the season went on that they as -- and Ohlmeyer said it's going to take until the end of October for this to get put together anyway. But I thought as season went on they were gelling and it was coming together and that the humorous aspects of Miller were starting to...

SAJAK: Do you still watch wistfully?

LIMBAUGH: I never did watch wistfully. I still...

(LAUGHTER)

SAJAK: Well, I thought...

LIMBAUGH: It's a done deal. You mean am I still going, oh, if only me? No.

SAJAK: I'm not trying to get you to cry or anything, Rush.

LIMBAUGH: No, no.

SAJAK: I don't have, you know -- I don't have that kind of time.

LIMBAUGH: I'm a conservative.

SAJAK: Yeah, I know.

(LAUGHTER)

LIMBAUGH: We don't cry. SAJAK: Yeah, well, reach over there and pull out a nose hair, pal. That'll do it. Back with more of Rush Limbaugh in a moment.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: You took up golf -- what? -- four years ago.

LIMBAUGH: And now you're hooked. You're a nut.

LIMBAUGH: I'm addicted. I am addicted.

SAJAK: And your audience gets annoyed sometimes with you, because you start talking about golf and football, and they go...

LIMBAUGH: Let me tell you something. You know, that's -- that's another classic example of why I don't let the audience run the program, Pat. From the day this program started, I'd come in on Monday and tell people what I did on the weekend, who I met.

I'll never forget the first night I had dinner with Bill Buckley, here in New York at his maisonette, with the editors of "National Review."

SAJAK: Well, that's Bill Buckley. That's not "what I did on the 9th hole."

LIMBAUGH: Doesn't that -- but, there are many...

SAJAK: People aren't necessarily riveted by that story.

LIMBAUGH: But the complaints are: We don't care who you had dinner with. You're just dropping names...

I have always described my weekend to people. It's been a part of my program since I began, and these people that claim to have been regular listeners all these years: You're losing me. I don't care about...

I mean, I get the letters when I don't even mention the stuff, Pat.

(CROSSTALK)

LIMBAUGH: I just imagine them, that they're -- actually, I see sinister smiles.

SAJAK: E-mail is a great liberator for the jerky people.

LIMBAUGH: Oh, it's great for cowards. They can be anonymous behind it, and so it forth. And see, I let it be known that I read mine. I get about 10, 12,000 e-mails a day, and I scan the subject lines as I'm doing the program, and if I find some that intrigue me, I'll open and read them. And if they're any good, I read them on the air sometimes, take the place of a phone call now and then. And, it's -- you can see patterns here.

Look, it's not just e-mailers or phone calls. Everybody I know thinks they can do the job better than I do it. If you listen to everybody tell you what should you do, you will lose your identity.

SAJAK: Everybody has two businesses, their own, and show business.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, and you just have to be confident enough in what you do to be polite when you hear all these suggestions, and don't offend people when they give them. But stick to what you do and what you know works. Followed my instincts, is what I've always done.

SAJAK: We'd like to take a call or two and see what's going on out there. We have someone from Denver out there. Are you there, Denver?

CALLER: I'm here. Good evening, Mr. Sajak. Ditto, Rush.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you. Thanks very much.

CALLER: Rush, it's easier to talk to you on CNN.

LIMBAUGH: You mean getting through?

CALLER: Absolutely.

LIMBAUGH: Well, here you are.

CALLER: Rush, I have a question for you. I have some great friends, had them all my life, who are what you would describe as wacky liberals. I do value them, but the election really kind of brought out our differences. I know that you, too, have liberal friends. How do you manage to keep up the friendships?

LIMBAUGH: Don't argue with them about it and don't try to change their minds about things. Just acknowledge that they're who they are. And I do not determine friendships by people's ideology or politics. Most of my friends are conservative. I mean, I'm sure yours are, too. It's just natural that it'll happen that way.

But if you find a good friend who is just off the wall, different than you are, there's something about him you like. And I just focus on those things, and then have friendly, ribbing little arguments about things. But I don't try to change, and I resist permanent arguments.

Let me tell you a little story about this. Went to Las Vegas a couple weekends ago. Mike Milken had a charity golf tournament for CaP CURE. And there were a number of Hollywood types there. I'm not going to mention any names because it doesn't matter. But there were -- there was one guy in particular, an actor who -- I have just loved his work. And it doesn't matter to me what his politics are. I mean, I imagine what they are, given where he works.

But I had a chance for the first time in my life to tell him how much I, and my wife, enjoy his work, and that I was happy to have that opportunity. And he was very gracious, took the compliment. I turned around and walked 10 feet away, and I hear him yell, "But I don't agree with a thing you say, politically, not a damn thing! Not one!"

So I turned around, I said -- smiled, I said, "It's OK. It doesn't matter to me." Now, I'm not going to stop watching this guy's work or whatever. And for some reason -- he said it with a smile, by the way. He was not shouting. He said it with a smile, but he still felt compelled to say it.

I would never -- in a situation like that, if somebody came up to me, that I knew was just a pure off-the-wall socialist commie, you know, I wouldn't, after they walked away, say, "But I don't agree with a thing" -- after they complimented me.

And I'm not criticizing him for doing it. It's just something about liberals. And I had to just defuse the situation, because I didn't want to be on the guy's bad side. That wasn't the point. So it's easy to have people who are -- of different friends, because most people are more than their politics. Most people consist far more than what their ideological makeup is.

SAJAK: And I have no problem with Hollywood people who -- I mean, they're Americans and have a right to views.

LIMBAUGH: Well, I don't know about it being Americans, but they...

SAJAK: But I do resent the sort of bait-and-switch thing, where you go to hear someone sing and you have to sit through a diatribe, first. I mean, that's like...

LIMBAUGH: I wonder, Pat, who you might be talking about.

SAJAK: I -- I have no names. No names, please. We have to take a break. We'll be back with more of Rush Limbaugh. We'll get another caller, too, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: Welcome back. Pat Sajak for Larry King with Rush Limbaugh. You know, I consider myself a political junkie, and I read all the stuff, and I listen to your show and lots of shows, and watch a lot of television. But there are times when I get burned out on the subject, and I will take weeks and say, I don't a want to read any columns, I'm tired of it, whatever -- for whatever reason. I go on to other things. You can't do that. Politics...

LIMBAUGH: No, I can't. But I -- I can't -- I can occasionally if I take some vacation time.

(CROSSTALK)

LIMBAUGH: That's what golf does.

SAJAK: People who are with you don't want to talk politics? People you run into don't want to talk politics?

LIMBAUGH: Sometimes they do. But the great thing -- people I play golf with are golfers like I am. They talk golf when they're on the golf course.

That is the -- I used to work for the Kansas City Royals for five years, did sales and marketing. And my job involved being in a clubhouse. So, I got to know some players, and they played golf on the off day, they went fishing. And never understood it until this stuff happened to me. It is an escape. You do not think about anything other than that. So...

SAJAK: I think it's some sort of a cult, this golf thing.

LIMBAUGH: Yes, but, well -- it isn't religious, but it certainly got its own culture to it. But I am fortunate. I have always said that if I get up one day and don't want to read the newspapers, then it is over, you know, because my enthusiasm is all I have really got here, and my accumulated knowledge, opinions, that sort of thing.

It hasn't happened to me. I get more excited about -- especially when -- the worst time was the last four years of Clinton. I mean, I literally hated him. I hated what was happening to the country, I hated what was happening to the culture, it -- just -- I thought it was one of the worst periods of my life, and I have never been happier. I would have still been unhappy had Gore won, it would have been devastating. But just to get rid of Clinton as president has been liberating in so many ways.

SAJAK: Later on, we will try to get you to speak up and say what's your mind. In the meantime, we'll take a call from Blanchard, Louisiana. Hi.

CALLER: Hello.

SAJAK: Hello, Blanchard.

CALLER: In four years, who do you think are going to be the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates?

LIMBAUGH: In four years. I don't think the Democrats have the slightest idea right now who theirs will be. I think the Republicans' will be Bush.

And it is too hard to say. In fact, if Clinton does reappear as this figurehead leader for the party, he is going to crowd out any attempt by another Democrat to rise to the level of potential nominee.

A lot of people are trying for it. John Kerry, Bob Kerrey. McCain, interestingly, may go moderate, independent or Democrat, if he is interested, because Bush will have the Republican side sewn up. I -- it is wide open over there, and it's just too early to say.

SAJAK: Yes, let's take a breath. Let's take a break before we have to start talking about that.

LIMBAUGH: It will happen in two years.

SAJAK : The cycle's is just seem to come more and more quickly. You mentioned Bob Kerrey; any thoughts on the revelations going on? The Vietnam...

LIMBAUGH: Ultimately, what that was -- see, I have a theory about the left and the military. I think they -- it's not theory, it is fact. Just listen to them, whenever we've got a military deployment -- Gulf War, Desert Storm, Vietnam -- it is always the U.S. military that is in error. Our existence is the problem. U.S. military is the focus of evil in the modern world.

My theory is they kind of like it when our military screws up, gets defeated, or commits atrocities. And this Bob Kerrey thing ultimately, if you look at all that happened -- take Bob Kerrey out of the mix.

What did we start doing? We started re-fighting the Vietnam War all over again. It provided an opportunity for these anti-war nuts to come out, once again, and talk about how immoral, how unjust, and how uncivil, the United States as a country was. And ergo, still is.

That is what bothered me about it. I don't know what is really behind, why this all came out now. And who really put this out and for what purpose. I don't think we know any of that yet.

SAJAK: The details seem quite muddy. And an interesting situation he seems be going through.

LIMBAUGH: It could well be -- I had it said to me -- that maybe he was in somebody's polling showing pretty strong signs for the nomination in '94 on the Democratic side, so let's take a little hit.

SAJAK: Another break. Back with Rush Limbaugh. Back in a bit.

LIMBAUGH: It's going too fast.

SAJAK: I know, I'm sorry. I'm trying to slow it down.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAJAK: Our last few minutes -- do you have an appointment?

LIMBAUGH: No, it is just going too fast.

SAJAK: Speaking of going places, there is a gentlemen, Tito is his name up in space. He bought his way into...

LIMBAUGH: How about that!

SAJAK: Would you go? Does that interest you, if you -- if they said, hey, Rush, come on over here?

LIMBAUGH: I've never thought of it. In fact, I had that little story to talk about today from this angle. There are a lot of letters to the editor. I mean "USA Today," the guy has no business going, just because he's rich, he spent $20 million. And it is silly. Why should he be going up there?

And I think, what does it matter? If he has got $20 million and wants to spend it, and even give to it NASA -- certainly they could use it, although he is up there with the Russians. But if that is what somebody wants to do, what's it matter to anybody? Why do people sit out there and get exercised?

Whoever wrote the letter -- you are out there; you know who you are -- what are you doing that you get so upset about this guy who earned the money and he's doing what he wants to do with it? I -- that was the -- struck me.

SAJAK: It also seems to maintain that there some -- having a civilian up there, if you will, someone who's not really trained do this, endangers the crew in emergency situations. Do you buy that as a...

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, I will buy that. But I think -- if you get to the point where -- anybody off the street can go up there, and function, and do things, then what does it say about the process of selecting people to do it?

Now, but I've met a couple astronauts and the true scientists of them, Kevin Chilton, I have got some great pictures from when he was shuttle commander of New York City, daytime and nighttime EIB Headquarters. I -- the part of me -- I love aviation, I mean, I just -- I'm a freak for it.

SAJAK: You fly?

LIMBAUGH: No. I ride. I ride, but I don't fly. But...

SAJAK: You have much training for that? I ride. Come on.

LIMBAUGH: Gotten real good at it. Worked very hard at it, too. But I think I probably would go. I would go.

SAJAK: Sure, I would in a heartbeat. Absolutely. I mean, my wife would try to -- would try talk out of it.

LIMBAUGH: She would try to talk me out of it. She would definitely try to talk me out of it.

SAJAK: Interesting statistic, that -- I think it's 1,400 press credentials have been issued for the McVeigh execution. Seems a little bizarre to me, but, I mean -- those are Super Bowl numbers, but how do you feel about this whole issue of who should attend? Should it be televised? There were some real attempts to televise this and put it on the Internet, to put it on the air. Where do you stand on that?

LIMBAUGH: You know, to be honest, I haven't even brought the subject up on the program. And the reason I haven't brought it up is because I have not been stricken by a passionate opinion on it one way or the other, and if I don't have a passionate opinion about it, I generally don't bring it up. But now you have put me on the spot.

SAJAK: Develop some passion here.

LIMBAUGH: I think the original idea was to allow the survivors of which there are in the neighborhood of 350 -- look at the number of press! The number of press -- you have to say lot of voyeurism, on the press side of it.

But there is something I heard the other day that I think, without examining yet, all of it in intellectual detail, doesn't make sense to be. If we as a society are going to exercise capital punishment, we ought to be willing to watch it.

SAJAK: Interesting notion.

LIMBAUGH: I think it would help the deterrent aspect of it. And I really have no quarrel with it being televised, none whatsoever.

SAJAK: We have to wrap things up. It has been a very quick hour. Just as a broadcaster, politics aside, what you have done is amazing. It has been quite a run, and in these troubled times in broadcasting with all the consolidation going on to have continued for 14 years, with no sign of slowing down, I tip my hat to you. I enjoyed having you here.

LIMBAUGH: Thanks very much. It's all about the audience. If you stay focused on the audience, that is -- because without them, and sponsors, all the rest of it is academic.

SAJAK: I will take that to heart.

LIMBAUGH: Thank you for saying that. That's very kind of you.

SAJAK: You have Larry King back tomorrow. I'll be back Monday with Regis Philbin for the full hour. I look forward to that.

Good night.

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