One of the most influential media figures in American history died Wednesday. Rush Limbaugh, the pioneer who transformed talk radio during 33 years behind the “golden EIB microphone,” lost his battle with Stage IV lung cancer. He was 70.
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, relayed the sad news as his show opened.
“It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer,” she said. “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.”
Limbaugh announced just over a year ago that he’d been diagnosed with the disease. Days later, President Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union address.
With “talent on loan from God,” Limbaugh was a relentless voice for conservative Americans who felt voiceless in media. His main sources of attacks were liberals, feminists, environmentalists, the “drive-by media” and more.
“People listen to radio for three reasons: to be entertained, to be entertained, to be entertained,” Limbaugh once said.
Born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, his father was a lawyer and World War II veteran, while his grandfather was a legendary jurist, legislator, and Republican activist during an eight-decade career. But Limbaugh followed a different trail, dropping out of Southeast Missouri State University after two semesters to launch his radio career in Kansas City. Following a stint as a Kansas City Royals publicist, he moved to California and began full-time radio, starting in 1984.
The 1987 abolition of the “Fairness Doctrine” — a move ushered in by Ronald Reagan’s free-market policies, liberating radio from being forced to provide equal time for opposing views, since liberal views couldn’t draw an audience — allowed Limbaugh to thrive. He began the nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh Show in 1988, and the rest is history. The program reaches more than 20 million daily listeners with nearly 700 affiliates.
Limbaugh credited National Review founder William F. Buckley for teaching him how to articulate conservative views.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty tweeted today, “The entire modern era of AM radio was shaped by his choices, his talent, and his legacy.”
An avid golfer, sports fan and devotee of Apple products, “El Rushbo” was a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author, who published several books, including a popular children’s series in recent years called “Rush Revere.” The five books informed kids about exceptional Americans and fascinating events in our country’s history.
In his first interview since the Jan. 6 Capitol siege, former President Donald Trump called into Fox News to commemorate Limbaugh Wednesday afternoon.
Trump calls into Fox News to eulogize Rush Limbaugh: "People whether they loved him or not, they respected him." pic.twitter.com/n6KLYwGB1r
— The Recount (@therecount) February 17, 2021
“His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced. Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for. Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans — a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves. Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly,” Trump said in a prepared statement Wednesday afternoon.
Fox’s initial recap noted, “Limbaugh helped boost Trump’s influence prior to the 2016 election simply by taking him seriously as a candidate when other established conservatives didn’t want the former reality television star anywhere near the Republican Party. Many of Limbaugh’s listeners eventually became Trump supporters.”
Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, who runs the state where Limbaugh lived since 2010, called Rush “the GOAT” and claimed that “nobody will ever replace him.”
A statement from former President George W. Bush deemed Limbaugh an “indomitable spirit with a big heart.”