Rush Limbaugh, the radio host who tore liberals apart and destroyed political correctness with a gleeful villainy that made him one of the most powerful voices on the American right, influencing the push to the right of conservatism and the rise of Donald Trump, who died on Wednesday. He was 70 years old.
Limbaugh said a year ago that he had lung cancer. His death was announced on his show by his wife, Kathryn.
Rock-solid curator, fiercely partisan, bombastic self-promotion, and larger than life, Limbaugh galvanized listeners for more than 30 years with his knack for vituperation and sarcasm.
He called himself an artist, but his rants during his three-hour weekday radio show on nearly 600 U.S. stations shaped the national political conversation, influencing ordinary Republicans and their party leadership.
Blessed with a voice made for broadcast, he delivered his opinions with such certainty that his followers, or “Ditto Heads” as he called them, took his words as sacred truth.
“In my heart and soul I know that I have become the intellectual engine of the conservative movement,” Limbaugh told author Zev Chafets, with typical shamelessness in the 2010 book “Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One “.
Forbes magazine estimated its 2018 revenue at $ 84 million, placing it behind Howard Stern among radio personalities.
Limbaugh took the title “America’s Most Dangerous Man” as his badge of honor. He said he was the “truth detector,” the “democracy doctor,” a “lover of humanity,” a “harmless and adorable little fluffy ball” and an “all-around good guy.” He claimed he had “a talent lent by God”.
Long before Trump’s rise in politics, Limbaugh was pinning insulting names on his enemies and raging against the mainstream media, accusing him of fueling public lies. He called out the Democrats and other left-wing communists, the wacky, the feminazis, the liberal extremists, the homosexual slurs and the radicals.
When actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, appeared in a Democratic campaign ad, Limbaugh laughed at his tremors. When a Washington homeless advocate committed suicide, he made jokes. As the AIDS epidemic raged in the 1980s, it made death a punchline. He called 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a dog.
He suggested that the Democrats’ stance on reproductive rights would have led to the abortion of Jesus Christ. When a woman accused Duke University lacrosse players of rape, he ridiculed her as a “hoo” and when a Georgetown University law student backed the expansion of the contraceptive coverage, he called her a “bitch”. When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Limbaugh said, “I hope he fails.
He has often been accused of bigotry and blatant racism for antics such as playing the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show. The lyrics, to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” describe Obama as someone who “makes guilty whites feel good” and who is “black, but not genuinely.”
Limbaugh often articulated the Republican platform better and more entertainingly than any party leader, becoming a GOP kingmaker whose approval and friendship was sought after. Polls have always shown him to be seen as the voice of the party.
Her idol, Ronald Reagan, wrote a praise letter that Limbaugh proudly read on air in 1992: “You have become the number one voice of conservatism. In 1994, Limbaugh was so widely credited with the first Republican takeover of Congress in 40 years that the GOP made him an honorary member of the new class.
In the 2016 presidential primaries, Limbaugh said he realized early on that Trump would be the candidate, and he compared the candidate’s deep connection to his supporters to his own. In a 2018 interview, he conceded that Trump was rude, but said it was because he was “fearless and ready to fight things that no Republican was ready to fight against.”
Trump, for his part, praised Limbaugh and, in last year’s State of the Union address, awarded the broadcaster the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. , calling his friend “a special man loved by millions of people.”
The pair ultimately found Florida more comfortable than New York: Former President Mar-a-Lago’s estate sits eight miles on the same Boulevard in Palm Beach as the $ 50 million waterfront expanse. Limbaugh Sea.
Trump called the Fox News Channel to discuss his friend’s death, saying they last spoke three or four days ago. “You know, his fight was very, very courageous. And he was very, very sick.
Trump hailed Limbaugh as “a legend” with impeccable political instincts. Former President George W. Bush said on Wednesday that he “speaks like the voice of millions of Americans.”
Limbaugh has influenced Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and countless other Conservative commentators who have pushed the boundaries of what passes as acceptable public discourse.
Its kind of brutal, no-gray debate has spread to cable TV, town halls, political rallies, and Congress itself, emerging in the battles over healthcare and the rise of the movement. of the Tea Party.
“What he did was introduce some really mean and mean paranoia and rhetoric and hyperpartisan into the mainstream,” said Martin Kaplan, a professor at the University of Southern California, an expert at the University of Southern California. ‘intersection of politics and entertainment and frequent criticism of Limbaugh. “The kind of antagonism and virulence that characterized him instantly became acceptable everywhere. “
In a breathless segment in 1991, he spoke out against the homeless, AIDS patients, critics of Christopher Columbus, aid to the Soviet Union, condoms in schools, advocates of animal rights, multiculturalism and the social safety net.
His enemies accused him of trafficking half-truths, prejudices and outright lies – the same tactics he decried in others. Al Franken, the comedian and former senator, released a book in 1996 titled “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations”.
In 2003, Limbaugh admitted to pain medication addiction and entered rehab. Authorities have opened an investigation into alleged “doctor purchases,” saying he received up to 2,000 tablets from four doctors in six months.
He eventually made a deal with prosecutors in which they agreed to drop the charge if he continued his drug treatment and paid $ 30,000 towards the cost of the investigation.
He lost his hearing during this time. He said it was an autoimmune disease, while critics said hearing loss is a known side effect of painkiller abuse. He received cochlear implants, which restored his hearing and saved his career.
A portly, cigar-eating, round-faced character, Limbaugh has been divorced three times, having married Roxy Maxine McNeely in 1977, Michelle Sixta in 1983 and Marta Fitzgerald in 1994. He married his fourth wife, the former Kathryn Rogers, in a sumptuous 2010 Ceremony with Elton John. He had no children.
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born January 12, 1951 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Her mother was former Mildred Armstrong and her father, Rush Limbaugh Jr., was a lawyer.
Rusty, as young Limbaugh was called, was chubby and shy, with little interest in school but a passion for broadcasting. He turned the radio down during the St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, offering one game per game, and gave live commentary on the evening news. In high school, he landed a job in radio.
Limbaugh dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University for a series of DJ concerts, from his hometown to McKeesport, Pa., To Pittsburgh and then to Kansas City. Known as Rusty Sharpe and then Jeff Christie on the air, he mostly shot Top 40 hits and sprinkled glimpses of his wit and conservatism.
“One of the first reasons I was interested in radio was that I thought it would make me popular,” he once wrote.
But he didn’t get what he dreamed of and gave up radio for several years, starting in 1979, becoming director of promotions for the Kansas City Royals of baseball. He eventually returned to broadcasting, again in Kansas City and then in Sacramento, California.
It was there, in the early 1980s, that Limbaugh really drew an audience, showing shows dripping with sarcasm and bravado. The stage name was gone.
Limbaugh began broadcasting nationally in 1988 from WABC in New York. As his know-it-all commentary quickly gained traction, he was dismayed by his welcome to the big city. He thought he would be greeted by Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather.
“I came to New York,” he wrote, “and immediately became a nothing, a zero.”
Ultimately, Limbaugh moved his radio show to Palm Beach and bought his huge estate. Talkers Magazine, which covers the industry, said Limbaugh had the largest audience in the country in 2019, with 15 million unique listeners each week.
“When Rush wants to talk to America, all he has to do is pick up his mic. He attracts more listeners with just his voice than the rest of us could ever imagine,” he said. Beck wrote in Time magazine in 2009. “He’s just on another level.
Limbaugh has exhibited his worldview in the bestselling books “The Way Things Ought to Be” and “See, I Told You So”.
It had a late night TV show in the 1990s that got decent ratings but lackluster publicity because of its divisive message. When he hosted “The Pat Sajak Show” in 1990, members of the public called him a Nazi and yelled at him several times.
He was fired from a short-term job as an NFL commentator on ESPN in 2003 after he said the media stared Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because he was “very keen that a black quarterback succeed “. His racial remarks also derailed a 2009 bid to become one of the owners of the NFL St. Louis Rams.
“Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and said to yourself, ‘I’m just full of hot gas? »» David Letterman asked him in 1993 on «The Late Show».
“I am a servant of mankind,” replied Limbaugh. “I am in constant pursuit of the truth. I actually just sit there and think I’m so lucky to have this opportunity to tell people what’s really going on.