- Rush Limbaugh, one of the most influential conservative talk-radio hosts, died on Wednesday.
- Limbaugh announced in February 2020 that he had advanced lung cancer.
- His hyper-partisan, liberal-bashing style influenced several commentators over the years.
The right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh died on Wednesday, Fox News first reported. He was 70 years old.
Limbaugh, who dominated airwaves for more than three decades with his hyper-partisan, liberal-bashing style on “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” announced in February 2020 that he had advanced lung cancer.
He told listeners on-air that the diagnosis had been confirmed in January 2020 after he experienced shortness of breath. Limbaugh said that at the time that he had been reluctant to discuss personal matters on his show but wanted to be honest with his listeners.
“It is what it is. And you know me, I’m the mayor of Realville,” he said at the time. “My intention is to come here every day I can.”
Limbaugh started his radio show, which was syndicated on AM and FM radio stations around the country, in 1984 at KFBK in Sacramento, California. It moved to New York City in 1988 and, eventually, to Palm Beach, Florida.
He quickly became one of the most influential voices in right-wing politics, and his style inspired and paved the way for other conservative broadcasters, including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and Bill O’Reilly.
Throughout his career, Limbaugh regularly used hate speech and offered racist and bigoted commentary on his show, targeting people of color, women, LGBTQ people, and those with disabilities.
He was an outspoken opponent of feminism, which he argued “was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.” He lamented in 2007 that professional football was dominated by Black players, saying it “looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons.” And he regularly fed white resentment, arguing once that “if any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians.”
Limbaugh aggressively targeted former President Barack Obama, at times weaponizing racist attacks. In 2007, Limbaugh featured a song on his radio show about Barack Obama titled “Barack the Magic Negro,” which described him as “Black, but not authentically,” and said he “makes guilty whites feel good.”
Still, Limbaugh was a favorite of many conservative politicians, including Ronald Reagan, who said in a 1992 letter to the radio host that he had “become the number one voice for conservatism in our country.” In recent years, Limbaugh was a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump.
At Trump’s State of the Union in 2020, Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which honors Americans who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”
In his 2020 State of the Union address, Trump hailed Limbaugh as “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet” and “a special man, beloved by millions of Americans.”
In the weeks after the 2020 presidential election, Limbaugh pushed debunked claims that President Joe Biden stole the election from Trump, arguing that he “didn’t win this thing fair and square.”
“We are not going to be docile like we’ve been in the past, and go away and wait till the next election,” he said on his show on December 16, just weeks before rioters in support of of Trump stormed the Capitol building on January 6.
Also in December, he argued that there can’t be a “peaceful coexistence” between conservatives and liberals.
“It can’t go on this way,” Limbaugh said, in comments that faced widespread criticism. “There cannot be a peaceful coexistence of two completely different theories of life, theories of government, theories of how we manage our affairs. We can’t be in this dire a conflict without something giving somewhere along the way.”
Limbaugh had several health issues and addictions. In 2003, he said he had a prescription-painkiller addiction and entered rehab. In 2006, he was arrested on prescription-drug charges, though he avoided jail time through a plea deal, The New York Times reported.
Limbaugh, who was often pictured smoking cigars, said in 2013 that he started smoking when he was 16. Three years earlier, he had said he hoped to switch to electronic cigarettes.
His wife, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, announced his death on the radio show on Wednesday. She was his fourth wife after his other three marriages ended in divorce. Kathryn told listeners, “Rush was an extraordinary man, a gentle giant, brilliant, quick-witted, genuinely kind, extremely generous, passionate, courageous, and the hardest-working person I know.”