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RUSH: Right. Here we are, folks. You’re tuned here to find out what the heck does it all mean. What’s really going on? Why is all of this happening? And you’ve come to the right place. I am happy to provide for you my insight and analysis. Rush Limbaugh, the EIB Network, here at the 800-282-2882, and the e-mail address, ElRushbo@eibnet.com.

You know, I’ve been thinking about something since last night. I saw Rudy Giuliani on Megyn Kelly’s show on Fox last night and he was going on about how he is friendly with so many people involved in all this. He’s friends here, friends there, talked about the Republican nomination and then the various candidates. He said, “I know so many of them. They’re close friends.”

And it got me to thinking. He’s exactly right. It makes this challenging. I get all kinds of criticism, which is fine, but some of it, “You know, Rush, I don’t know, you gotta know some of these people. How do we know that you don’t secretly prefer one over the other and you’re not being up front and honest about it because you know these people?” And I can understand people with that sentiment.

So let me run through this, because I have definite opinions about what is happening here, and I want to share them with you. It’s tough, just to be flat-out honest. It’s very hard when you know everybody involved and when you consider them friends. Sometimes, I’ll tell you, it’s much easier when you don’t know them. I mean you have no relationship, you have no personal friendship, relationship with any of the people about whom you opine. But, in this case, that doesn’t apply to me.

Let’s start with Roger Ailes at Fox News. Roger Ailes I have known since 1990. Roger Ailes is one of my closest, dearest friends. We confide in each other quite a lot. We don’t see each other as much as we would like, but we communicate regularly. I have endless respect and admiration for Roger Ailes, but it has not stopped me from being critical of certain things I see or hear on Fox. And he’s never once called me and said, “Hey, what are you doing?”

By the same token, I, as you well know, over the years, have been criticized, sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly by any number of people at Fox. And I’ve never called Roger and said, “Hey, what’s going on?” I wouldn’t think of it. I wouldn’t think of calling Roger, “Hey, would you stop him from saying that?” It would never cross my mind. And, by the same token, he has never done anything like that here.

Megyn Kelly. Megyn Kelly was at my wedding. She has been in my home a couple of times. I know her and her husband, Doug, and I know of his efforts writing novels. I’ve read them, I’ve talked about them. I have intimate, profound respect for her career and what she’s trying to do and how she’s going about it.

Trump. I’ve known Donald Trump for years, and I like him. I have never been angry at him. I have laughed. I have been amazed. I’ve had every reaction to Trump that you’ve had. Some of it up close and personal. I haven’t divulged many of those stories. It’s nothing hyper, super personal. It’s just I don’t routinely speak out of school without permission.

Ted Cruz. I have broken bread with Ted Cruz. I have been around him a number of times and like him immensely. I’m dazzled by his intellect and his commitment, and his conservatism is unchallenged by anybody in this race.

Marco Rubio, ditto. Marco Rubio has been here, as has Mitt Romney been here, as has Rand Paul been here, and they have all opened up and been very honest with me, in some cases off the record, which I always respect, and I never even try to sneak off-the-record stuff into conversations about them. And it works both ways.

And who else? Jeb Bush. The entire Bush family. I can’t begin to tell you all of the things the Bush family made possible for me, trips to the White House. I mean, folks, career aside, I have such reverence for this country, I consider it an honor to be at the White House each and every time I’ve been there and for whatever reason, and I always feel a sense of gratitude for whoever made it possible.

George W. Bush had me to the White House his final year in office, on my birthday, a private lunch, which I’ve talked about before, in the presidential dining room off of the Oval Office with Ed Gillespie. They had a special chocolate microphone cake that they brought out. And there have been the White House Christmas parties, Lincoln Bedroom, George H. W. Bush.

I mean, I can’t pretend these things have not happened, and I have always considered myself to be well mannered and polite and respectful. I am appreciative of the graciousness and the opportunities that have been offered and presented to me by a host of people that I otherwise would not have been able to experience.

Look, I don’t want to leave anybody out. Dr. Carson. I met Ben Carson two or three times, interviewed him for the Limbaugh Letter, the most widely read political newsletter in all of the United States. And Kathryn has been with Dr. Carson at a number of homeschool conventions where we feature the Rush Revere series and get to know that group of people as we work with people to try to make sure the proper history of this country is taught at the youngest ages to combat what’s happening in the public school system and all the way up through the university level.

John Kasich used to come up to my office with Frank Luntz back at 2 Penn Plaza to talk about strategy and messaging back when they were part of the Republican freshman class, 1994-1995. Newt hosted dinners in his office at the Capitol when he was Speaker with Mr. and Mrs. Buckley and me. It became a yearly tradition for a few years to do dinner with that group at a different location each year. Henry Kissinger, Mr. Buckley himself, members of his family. The people at National Review I’ve known since I started doing this program.

Over at the American Spectator, Bob Tyrrell, Brent Bozell and his crowd at the Media Research Center and NewsBusters. And there’s not a one of them that is in any way approaching an enemy. I mean, some of the blogs, Ed Morrissey over at Hot Air, I know Erick Erickson who guest hosts this program, he was at Red State and his lifelong dream was to guest host this program, which he’s done so now he’s going into retirement. (laughing) Look, I don’t want to leave anybody out. Who else in the presidential field?

Chris Christie has called me enraged on the phone. But I’ve been at a strategy planning session with Chris Christie and some of his supporters way, way back. I can’t mention some of the other people that were there, but there are other Fox News people I’ve met over the course of the show. Brit Hume. Rick Santorum. (interruption) Well, the Huckster I’ve not really met. I’ve been the recipient of caustic phone calls from the Huckster, but that’s all. Who else? Dr. Krauthammer I met at Tony Snow’s funeral, for the first time.

Now, not all of these people are what I would call close friends that I’m in daily contact with, don’t misunderstand. But I know them. And in some cases, some of them have been very critical of me on occasion over the years, and vice-versa. But there’s not a one of them who I consider a problem or an enemy, and there’s not a one of them that I worry about if I have to be honest here about what I think. I guess the best illustration would be Roger. Fox News starts in 1996. Roger was the executive producer of my TV show from 2002 1992 to 1996, and we went through all kinds of wars and battles there.

We’ve stayed and remained extremely close friends.

Now, I know a lot of you watch Fox and you’ve watched me get ripped over the coals — sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly — by guests, by Fox analysts/employees, or what have you. Not once… I wouldn’t even dream of calling Roger and saying, “Hey, what’s going on! Would you make those people stop? W-w-what…?” And, by the same token, I don’t think he would call me. (laughing) He has never called me and said, “What are you beating up on Fox News for?” He’s never done it. There’s a… I don’t know what you call it. It’s mutual respect or professional understanding or what have you.

But it’s just understood by everybody involved that you have to be honest about what you really think and you can’t allow — and it’s hard. You can’t allow personal knowledge, friendships — in some cases, relationships — to get in the way of what I consider to be honest commentary. The reason I’m setting all this up is ’cause this stuff that’s happening here with Trump and Fox News and Megyn Kelly, I can’t avoid discussing it. And there’s no sense of me coming here and trying to disguise what I really think. I have to tell you what I really think of what’s going on here.

And it is something that… I just wanted to put all this out there and get it on the table. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and it does involve talking about people that you know, that I know, that I have gotten to know pretty well and that I like and respect. Sometimes they do things that I don’t understand. It doesn’t affect the friendship or relationship, at least as far as I’m concerned. People’s degrees of sensitivity differ from person to person. I, for example, couldn’t care less what anybody says or writes about me. That train left the station like 25 years ago.

But other people are hyper-concerned about it. And if you start taking things like that into account… You see, to me, folks, it’s you. These three hours, it’s all about you. This program’s done for you; not to protect, condemn, attack, shield any of these people that are the news-makers that I happen to know. ‘Cause at the end of the day, if you begin to doubt the honesty and veracity that I bring to this program in commentary, and if you don’t trust it, then it doesn’t do me any good.

So that’s why the setup here. Having said all that, let me take a break. We’ll come back and establish what’s really happening here with Trump and not doing the debate, and the way it’s been reacted to, what’s really going on. Is there an explanation for it? Is it good or bad? Does it hurt Trump; does it help Trump? Does it hurt Fox News; does it help Fox News? What does it mean for the other candidates? What does it mean for people that are gonna be on the stage tomorrow that Trump isn’t? Is Trump really not gonna show up?

Could there be some last-minute, face-saving accord that is brought together, put together by some of the principals that we don’t know? All kinds of things here are possible. We got audio sound bites from across the media spectrum. Some think — and many of the people who think Trump is doing genius things here are members of the Drive-By Media who work at CNN and the Washington Post, who really don’t like Fox News. So everybody’s opinion is out there, and you understand what their possible motivations are.

But there are basic elements of this that are what they are despite what any opinion-maker says or analyst says about them. And, like you, I’m still sifting through all of this and attempting to make some sense of it and explain it to myself in a satisfactory way, just as I’m going to attempt to do with you here. So a brief time-out. Did I leave anybody out of this? I’m sure I’ve left some people out when I start mentioning names. (interruption) Well, no, Snerdley, I don’t know everybody. For example, there are people running on the Republican side I haven’t met, I don’t think. I’ve not met Carly. I have not met Carly Fiorina.

I have played golf next to Carly Fiorina’s house in Hawaii, but I didn’t know if she was there or not. I waved. I said, “Hey, Carly! Rush Limbaugh,” as I drive the cart. I was at the 18th hole, I think, somewhere on the Big Island. I’ve had many sit-downs with Lindsey Grahamnesty. George Pataki asked me for one of my ties back in the old TV show days. None of them, folks… Some of them I support; some of them I don’t, for elective office, for president. But I don’t dislike any of them. And even if I did, it wouldn’t and shouldn’t impact or influence the show. (interruption) No, I’m not making excuses for anyone. What do you mean, “making excuses”? No, no, no, no. I’m trying to explain that what follows this is objective, is what I’m trying to tell you.

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