Former Bush Guru Mark McKinnon: Talks Underway to “Leach Out the Poison” of Talk Radio

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RUSH: Grab sound bite number one. Mark McKinnon. I’ll tell you a little story about Mark. I had never met Mark McKinnon, and I don’t think I ever have, actually, which is strange, given the story that I’m about to tell you. The Republican National Convention one year was held in New York. I forgot the year. Snerdley, you might remember ’cause the Democrat convention was there a bunch of times. The Republican convention was in New York. I think I still lived in New York when this happened, so this would be prior to 1997, I believe. It doesn’t really matter when. I wish I could remember just to close the loop on the story.

But Peggy Noonan and I decided to have a dinner at Patsy’s the night before the convention was to start, and it was an open invitation to anybody in the Republican leadership to show up. It was purely a social thing. It was not designed to be anything official. And it was well attended. A lot of people showed up. I was kind of surprised by how many who did. And one of them was Mark McKinnon. Now, at the time — this would have been George W. Bush or thereabouts because McKinnon ran all of the media for George W. Bush. He purchased it all. He decided where it would be purchased. He decided what the ads were gonna be. He was the media maven for George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004.

I just got a note. The dinner was 2004? Okay. So, see, I’ve lost my — I thought it had to be before 1997. So, I had moved out of New York and I went back there for this, is what happened. No, I’ve not seen Peggy Noonan since. At any rate, we had this big table set up at Patsy’s. It was a square table. It took up much of the second floor, Patsy’s on 56th between 8th and Broadway.

And so McKinnon walks in, and there’s a guy, friend of mine, comes over and sits down and points out McKinnon. “Do you know who that is? That’s the most important person in this room tonight.”

“Really? Who is it?”

“That is Mark McKinnon.”

I said, “What’s he do?”

“He buys all the media for George W. Bush. He is in charge of Bush’s media campaign. In other words, he holds the campaign in the palm of his hand.”

I said, “Wow.” McKinnon didn’t say anything. And I studied him the whole night. And I did not go introduce myself, either, ’cause I just didn’t. Don’t know why. Just didn’t. He did something that I noticed all night. He studied everything going on. He had a very wary eye, looking at everything going on, listening to everything everybody was saying. And there were a lot of people saying strategic things. There were a lot of people that had ideas. A lot of people.

This is the convention for Bush’s second term. And McKinnon is arguably one of the most important people in this room because he’s in charge of running the media, running the advertising, coming up with the plans, coming up with the strategeries and all that. And he had the most wary eye. He was just studying. If you don’t know who he is, he also stars on a Showtime series called The Circus, and he wears a cowboy hat. But he just studied everybody in that room that night. And I didn’t see him talk to anybody. He was simply gathering information, running the George W. Bush media campaign.

And I’ll never forget the person that came up to me and said the guy’s the most important person in this room tonight, is Mark McKinnon. And I had never met him, and I’m not even sure I had heard of him. And I don’t say this to be insulting. That’s not the point. I don’t insult people. I’m just being honest. I’m not a traditional political guy. I’m not a political activist. I don’t learn who’s running this or that aspect of a campaign, ’cause I have my own role to play in it, and I view what I do as important as anybody else in terms of disseminating information, being honest with people.

Well, it turns out McKinnon is one of these guys that has joined the Never Trumpers, the Lincoln Project. He’s one of these Never Trumpers doing everything that he can to get rid of, to impugn, to besmirch Donald Trump. They got some shocking news at the Lincoln Project the other day. You heard about this? That would be John Weaver, former McCain guy, was discovered to have been texting young men, underage young men, sexting underage young men. Not a good look for the Never Trumpers and the Lincoln project. And there’s even more to it than that.

But McKinnon has his show on Showtime, The Circus. And it’s about how the inside-the-Beltway crowd, it’s how the swamp looks at Washington through the Trump years and beyond. When McKinnon worked for Bush, he couldn’t get enough of talk radio. Talk radio was crucial. Bush believed in talk radio. The Bush family were amazingly accessible to me. They invited me to the White House on my birthday. I had a number of social events there where we discussed the events of the world out on the Truman Balcony. George W. Bush and his dad were just amazingly nice to me.

And McKinnon, back in those days, believed in talk radio. It was part of the ingredients, if you will, of success for the Bush administration. So, yesterday on MSNBC Live — which is where McKinnon now has a gig — the anchorette, Katy Tur, said to him, “This problem, people believing democracy was stolen from them, that needs to be addressed in the –” who in the world thinks democracy’s been stolen from ’em? Are there people that wanted to vote that couldn’t vote? It seems to me think the democracy’s been stolen from them were Trump mpeople. Who else thinks democracy’s been stolen from ’em? Anyway, her question, “The problem of people believing democracy was stolen from them needs to be addressed in the public platforms that conservatives flock to, Mark. The Fox Newses, the OANs, the Newsaxes.”

Isn’t it amazing? Last week these people didn’t even know who OAN was. They had an idea of what Newsmax was, but they weren’t sure. Now all of a sudden these two organizations may as well be Satan. OAN and Newsmax. Oh, and the right-wing talk radio, she said. We gotta something about that. And here is what Mark McKinnon’s reply was.

MCKINNON: There needs to be a very concerned, much broader effort, a lot of thought into how do we leach out this poison. I know that there are some efforts like that being planned right now. And I hope they’re significant, because it’s gonna take a lot and it’s gonna take a long time. It’s not gonna happen overnight, and it’s not gonna happen easily, but it’s gonna take a long and sustained effort. I think that those kind of efforts are being contemplated and planned.

RUSH: So he’s letting us in on the idea that they at the Lincoln Project and others in the Never Trumper world are already making plans and are happy to announce them on MSNBC of getting rid of the OANs, of the Newsmaxes out there, of the Fox Newses out there, and of course right-wing talk radio. Now, McKinnon makes it clear that it ain’t gonna be easy. It isn’t gonna happen overnight. It’s gonna have to take some patience out there. It’s gonna require a long, sustained effort.

So I heard this sound bite today before I played it for you, and all I could think about was that dinner at Patsy’s back in 2004 when I was the good guy, I think. I think I was the good guy. You know, I’m not even sure now if I ever was a good guy.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Now, look at this. We just got an email. Snerdley just got an email from Mark McKinnon, who I have discussed on the program today, specifically a dinner in New York, Sunday night before the Republican convention 2004. Here’s the email from McKinnon. “Hello, Snerdley. Mark McKinnon here. I’m pleased that Rush remembers our dinner in 2004. Remind him that it was me, Peggy Noonan and Matt Drudge at his table.” I knew that. I was trying to protect the identity of people who may not wanted it known. I do things like that.

“What Rush got wrong is that I have no association and never have had with the Lincoln project. I have no contract with MSNBC. I never have had. And the project I referred to only has to do with getting the facts out about what actually happened during the election, which, unfortunately, many on conservative media got wrong or distorted.” I don’t know what he’s talking about there, but he wants a correction, so I offer corrections.

Then he said, “Once the effort is announced, Rush will see that many people he respects in Republican circles will be involved. I suppose it’s too much to ask for a correction, but I would like for Rush to know what he got wrong about me.” Too much to ask for a correction? I do nothing but correct myself if I have been shown to be wrong, and I do it at the very beginning of the next segment or show after I’ve been informed I was wrong.

I’m not like people that don’t do corrections, like the New York Times, or I do them but bury them. I make them prominent. I admit that I was wrong about things. I’m not in this to be wrong. It doesn’t serve me to be wrong about things. It doesn’t serve me for people to think I don’t care if I got something wrong. So I am happy to read this email. I’m happy to issue the claimed corrections. Although I don’t understand some of it, but, okay.

So he may not be a member of the Lincoln Project. Snerdley, is it safe to say the guy’s a Never Trumper? (interruption) I’m not aware of it. (interruption) Yeah, but Never Trumpers are a specific beast. And for whatever reason, I’ve always assumed that he is a Never Trumper. The people he hangs around with are, particularly on his Showtime show. It’s called The Circus. Anyway, Mark, if you listened, you would know that I do corrections immediately when it’s proven to me that I got something wrong. There’s nothing in it to be wrong about things.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: All right. So I have some emails here responding to the short email sent to Snerdley by Mark McKinnon. And one of the passages in the McKinnon email that seems to have piqued, p-i-q-u-e-d, people’s attention is this. “The project I refer to only has to do with getting the facts out about what actually happened during the election.” I assume he means this past election and voter fraud. I don’t know what he’s talking about here. Then the next sentence. “Which, unfortunately, many on conservative media got wrong or distorted.” So it’s gotta be that he’s referring to the voter fraud allegations.

Then this. “Once the effort is announced,” by us and his buddies, “Rush will see that that many people he respects in Republican circles will be involved.” So people are writing me, “Rush, who are these people in Republican circles that you still respect?” I’m not kidding you. “McKinnon thinks you still respect these people. Who are they?”

And they mention names. One email said, “Is it Drudge? Is it Peggy Noonan? Is it Mitch McConnell? Is it Bill Kristol? Is it Jonah Goldberg? Is it anybody named Bush? Is it Romney? Is it Pence? Is it Liz Cheney? Who is it, Rush? Who are these Republicans that you secretly, privately still respect that Mark McKinnon says will be involved here?”

I don’t know. I’m not gonna answer this email. I’m just sharing with you that this is a reaction to the McKinnon email by some of you in the audience. “What Republicans do you still respect?” Like people are afraid that I’m lying to them. “Oh, no. McKinnon says you still respect some of these people. Who are they?” That’s the tone of the emails. Folks, I assure you, not guilty here on this.

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