Rush Limbaugh: Influential Right Wing Radio Talk Show Host, Dies at 70

Rush Limbaugh, Influential Right Wing Radio Talk Show Host, Dies at 70 of Lung Cancer


Rush Limbaugh 2005- WireImage- H 2020
John Medina/WireImage

Rush Limbaugh, the conservative commentator whose rhetorical and political pugnacity brought him massive radio following, made him a multimillionaire and won him Presidential Medal of Freedom, has died. He was 70.

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, announced his death on his syndicated radio show on Wednesday, saying that her husband died due to complications from lung cancer.

“I know that I am most certainly not the Limbaugh you tuned in to listen to today. I, like you, very much wish that Rush was with us behind the microphone right now welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting,” she said on the air. “For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show.”

She added, “As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult. Even more so when that loved one is larger than life. Rush will forever be the greatest of all time. Rush was an extraordinary man, a gentle giant, brilliant, quick-witted, genuinely kind, extremely generous, passionate, courageous and the hardest-working person I know. Despite being one of the most recognized, most powerful people in the world, Rush never let the success change his core or beliefs. He was polite and respectful to everyone he met.”

The talk show host and author shocked fans and foes alike on Feb. 3, 2020, when he announced on his radio program his advanced lung cancer, the latest illness to a man who had wrestled with near-total deafness and opioid addiction.

The day after that revelation, President Trump awarded him the nation’s highest civilian honor in an unprecedented fashion: during his annual State of the Union address. He did so, he said, “in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity.”

That provoked ecstasy on the right and fury on the left, with New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling Limbaugh a “violent racist” and soon-to-be Trump successor Joe Biden condemning him for being “a conservative media personality who has done as much as Trump himself to divide our nation.”

Many of the 37 million viewers who tuned in for the speech were shocked to see how gaunt the pundit had become as he stood next to his wife.

The controversy that moment stoked seemed fitting for a figure whose career was defined by it, who was as revered by those on one side of the political aisle as he was reviled by those on the other. His outsized influence led Vanity Fair in 2009 to dub him “The Man Who Ate the G.O.P.”

“He was Fox News before there was Fox News,” said NPR’s David Folkenflik, “such an important figure that by 1994, Newt Gingrich and his cadre, his wave of Republicans who took over the House of Representatives for the GOP for the first time in decades, appointed him an honorary member of the class of 1995. They gave him an enormous amount of credit of helping them with messaging, helping them get out the vote, helping them incentivize voters to help them sweep back. … He’s been a mainstay ever since.”

In the decades since The Rush Limbaugh Show was first syndicated nationally in 1988, its host held an almost unrivaled sway over the right even as he created outrage on the left, reveling in his incendiary views on minorities, feminism and the environment and being lambasted by representatives of the groups he attacked — not least the women he derided as “feminazis.” They were just some of his favored targets.

“Feminism was established to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream,” he once said. Another time, he noted that “Kurt Cobain was, ladies and gentlemen, a worthless shred of human debris.” And, addressing reports of American-instigated torture at the Abu Ghraib prison, he scoffed: “This is no different than what happens at the [Yale fraternity] Skull and Bones initiation. And we’re going to ruin people’s lives over it … You ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of the need to blow some team off?”