Rush Limbaugh, influential conservative talk show host, has died of cancer

Rush Limbaugh, the groundbreaking talk radio host, has died of lung cancer. He was 70.Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, announced the news on his radio show, which airs live from noon to 3 p.m. EST nationwide. .Limbaugh’s conservative talk show, heard by at least 20 million people a week during its peak, was deeply influential in shaping the Republican Party and its base.Forbes magazine estimated his 2018 income at $84 million, ranking him behind only Howard Stern among radio personalities.Limbaugh took as a badge of honor the title “most dangerous man in America.”. He said he was the “truth detector,” the “doctor of democracy,” a “lover of mankind,” a “harmless, lovable little fuzz ball” and an “all-around good guy.” .Limbaugh often enunciated the Republican platform better and more entertainingly than any party leader, becoming a GOP kingmaker.His idol, Ronald Reagan, wrote a letter of praise that Limbaugh proudly read on the air in 1992: “You’ve become the number one voice for conservatism.” .In 1994, Limbaugh was so widely credited with the first Republican takeover of Congress in 40 years the GOP made him an honorary member of the new class.Limbaugh influenced the likes of Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and countless other commentators.President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the presidential medal of freedom during his 2020 State of the Union address

He has been a fixture on radio for more than three decades

Rush Limbaugh, the groundbreaking conservative talk radio host, has died of lung cancer. He was 70.

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, announced the news on his radio show, which airs live from noon to 3 p.m. EST nationwide in syndication on hundreds of stations. In Atlanta, the show airs on WSB radio.

Limbaugh’s talk show, heard by more than 20 million people a week during its peak, was deeply influential in shaping the Republican Party and its hardcore base.

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh and wife Kathryn, left, attend the State of the Union address with first lady Melania Trump in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/TNS)
Radio personality Rush Limbaugh and wife Kathryn, left, attend the State of the Union address with first lady Melania Trump in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Mario Tama/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The Federal Communications Commission in 1987 repealed the Fairness Doctrine that mandated both sides of controversial political issues receive equal air time on radio. This paved the way for Limbaugh to start his show in 1988. He paved the way for an entire industry of radio talk show hosts that followed, including Sean Hannity and Mark Levin, and he kept AM radio viable for many years. (His show was on 640/WGST-AM in Atlanta for many years and bolstered that station during its heights of popularity in the 1990s.)

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.

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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.”

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