In Memoriam

Rush Limbaugh, Talk Radio Host and Voice of American Conservatism, Has Died at 70

The media figure’s endorsement and friendship is a conservative political treasure

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

Rush Limbaugh has died at the age of 70 of complications from lung cancer, it was announced on his radio show and its website Wednesday.

Limbaugh, the highly influential and controversial conservative talk radio host, learned of his cancer diagnosis in early 2020.

On Feb. 3, he first disclosed that he was sick. The following day, President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during the State of the Union address.

Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born in 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He started his career at a radio station at the age of 16 before growing to become one of the most influential voices in conservative media.

He started his first national radio show in 1988 from New York, later relocating to Palm Beach, Florida.

The hyper-partisan broadcaster has dominated talk radio with a raucous, liberal-bashing style that made him one of the most influential voices of American right-wing politics and inspired other conservative broadcasters including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.

The media figure’s endorsement and friendship is a conservative political treasure. His idol, Ronald Reagan, wrote a letter that Limbaugh read on the air in December 1992 and which sealed his reputation among conservatives: “You’ve become the number one voice for conservatism in our country,” Reagan wrote.

Two years later, Limbaugh would be so widely credited as key to Republicans’ takeover of Congress for the first time in 40 years, he was deemed an honorary member of the new class.

Limbaugh has frequently been accused of hate-filled speech, including bigotry and blatant racism through his comments and sketches such as “Barack the Magic Negro,” a song featured on his show that said Obama “makes guilty whites feel good” and that the politician is “black, but not authentically.”

Unflinchingly conservative, wildly partisan, bombastically self-promoting and larger than life, Limbaugh galvanized listeners for more than 30 years with his talent for vituperation and sarcasm.

He called himself an entertainer, but his rants during his three-hour weekday radio show broadcast on nearly 600 U.S. stations shaped the national political conversation, swaying ordinary Republicans and the direction of their party.

Blessed with a made-for-broadcasting voice, he delivered his opinions with such certainty that his followers, or “Ditto-heads,” as he dubbed them, took his words as sacred truth.

“In my heart and soul, I know I have become the intellectual engine of the conservative movement,” Limbaugh, with typical immodesty, told author Zev Chafets in the 2010 book “Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One.”

Limbaugh was married four times and did not have any children. He married wife Kathryn, who announced his death on his radio show, in 2010.

Prominent conservatives quickly sent condolences on social media and in statements after the news of his death was shared.

Former President Donald Trump called in to Fox to praise Limbaugh.

“He was a fantastic man,” Trump said. “A fantastic talent. People, whether they loved him or not, they respected him. They really did.”

Former President George W. Bush wrote in a statement "Laura and I are sorry to learn that Rush Limbaugh has passed away. A son of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Rush rose as a pioneer of talk radio starting in the 1980s, and was a friend throughout my Presidency."

"While he was brash, at times controversial, and always opinionated, he spoke his mind as a voice for millions of Americans and approached each day with gusto. As he battled hearing loss and cancer late in life, he was sustained by the support of friends and family, his love of sports and rock and roll, and his belief in God and country. Rush Limbaugh was an indomitable spirit with a big heart, and he will be missed."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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