Newt Gingrich in the mid-1990s gave Limbaugh credit for helping him and the Republicans take over the House of Representatives in 1994 and shepherd a new, more pugilistic era of Republican politics.
“He’s the most important radio talk show host of all time,” said Michael Harrison, who runs Talkers magazine, which tracks the industry. “His contributions to the industry are unparalleled, not to mention his importance to the national conversation.”
After news of Limbaugh’s cancer diagnosis went public last year, NPR reporter David Folkenflik, said, “In a sense, he was Fox News before there was Fox News.”
In a 2007 interview with Folkenflik, Limbaugh told Folkenflik that he was never about compromise but always about battling to win.
“Getting along is not the objective when it comes to the war on terror, when it comes to tax policy,” Limbaugh said. “To me, defeating, politically, people I disagree with is the order of the day, and I don’t think I defeat them by compromising with them.”
Limbaugh found a kindred spirit in former President Donald Trump. He boosted Trump’s campaign early on and gave him support during his entire presidency. Trump rewarded Limbaugh last year with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Over the years, he made no shortage of controversial comments about Black people, women and gays but didn’t flinch from any backlash by critics.
Shelley Wynter, a nighttime host at WSB who has listened to Limbaugh for more than 20 years, said Limbaugh’s influence wasn’t just political for other aspiring talk show hosts.
“He taught me that you can never have enough show prep,” Wynter said. “He also taught me that entertaining is universal no matter what the topic. And while the average talk show host might peel back one layer of the onion, he would peel it until there was nothing left. He knew both sides of the argument, so he could anticipate exactly what the opponent might say.”