Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday morning at the age of 70 following his Stage IV lung cancer diagnosis. One of the most important voices in political conversation, Rush helped shape the modern-day Republican Party and became one of the medium’s biggest and most influential stars.
Limbaugh’s show was first syndicated in 1988 and spanned more than three decades. At its peak, the show reached an audience of more than 15 million listeners. He used his platform to dig into political correctness, foretold the rise of Donald Trump, and led listeners around the nation through conversations regarding Republican issues and voices.
In a 2018 interview, he defended Trump for appearing rude and said it was because he is “fearless and willing to fight against the things that no Republican has been willing to fight against.” Limbaugh single-handedly created the era of national political talk radio it is today.
Limbaugh took as a badge of honor the title of being a truth detector, a doctor of democracy, and a lover of mankind. He received a letter of praise from his idol, Ronald Reagan, who said he’d become the “number one voice for conservatism.”
He also received the support of Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and countless other conservative commentators. Beck even wrote in a 2009 Time Magazine article that Rush “attracts more listeners with just his voice than the rest of us could ever imagine.”
Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2020 during the State of the Union Address just days after receiving his cancer diagnosis. Former President Trump called his friend “a special man beloved by millions.” “Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,” Trump said during the address.
Earlier that year, Trump also celebrated Limbaugh’s signing of a long-term contract with Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of IHeartMedia.
Limbaugh’s wife Kathryn announced his death on the influential radio program in a surprise noon announcement. “I know that I am most certainly not the Limbaugh that you tuned in to listen to today. I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone right now, welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting,” she started.
“For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show. 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,” Kathryn continued.
She said that “as so many of you know losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life.” Kathryn continued in saying that Rush will “forever be the greatest.” She described him as an extraordinary man and someone who was genuinely kind, extremely generous, and passionate.
Rush expounded on his world view in best-selling books “The Way Things Ought to Be” and “See, I Told You So.” He was enshrined in the Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2008 and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009.
On his final broadcast, Limbaugh revealed he was surprised he’d outlived his prognosis. “I wasn’t expected to be alive today. I wasn’t expected to make it to October, and then to November, and then to December. And yet, here I am, and today, got some problems, but I’m feeling pretty good today.”
Rush is survived by his wife, Kathryn.