PALM BEACH, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — Conservative talk show radio host and Republican party icon Rush Limbaugh has died. He was 70 years old.
His wife Kathryn announced his passing on his radio show Wednesday, saying Limbaugh died this morning due to complications from lung cancer.
“Rush will forever be the greatest of all time,” she said.
Bo Snerdley, Limbaugh’s longtime producer and call-screener, tweeted: “God Bless you Rush. I love you. Always and ever.”
Limbaugh had been battling advanced lung cancer since February 2020.
Back in October, Limbaugh provided this somber update on his show: “You know, I wake up every day and thank God that I did. I go to bed every night praying I’m gonna wake up. I don’t know how many of you do that, those of you who are not sick, those of you who are not facing something like I and countless other millions are.”
Former President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom during his most recent State of the Union address.
This appearance came only a few days after he revealed his diagnosis on his show.
“The Rush Limbaugh Show” first aired in 1988, eventually reaching an estimated 15.5 million people each week.
Limbaugh began working at the local radio station in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri at age 16. It’s there where his passion for radio was born.
He soon left home to pursue a broadcasting career, but it wasn’t as easy as he may have thought. Stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Kansas City, Missouri fired him for being too controversial.
After a five-year pause from radio, Limbaugh caught what would end up being his big break.
Sacramento station KFBK hired him in 1985, and within a year, he shot to the top of the ratings.
But Limbaugh was no stranger to controversy — many involved comments and attacks on liberals and minorities.
In 2003, while working as a sports analyst for ESPN, he caused an uproar after making race-related comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. He resigned from the network.
And in 2006, after a stint in rehab, police arrested Limbaugh saying he illegally obtained prescriptions from multiple doctors. He ultimately reached a deal with prosecutors.
When actor Michael J. Fox, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, appeared in a Democratic campaign commercial, Limbaugh mocked his tremors. When a Washington advocate for the homeless killed himself, he cracked jokes. As the AIDS epidemic raged in the 1980s, he made the dying a punchline. He called 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a dog.
“What he did was to bring a paranoia and really mean, nasty rhetoric and hyperpartisanship into the mainstream,” said Martin Kaplan, a University of Southern California professor who is an expert on the intersection of politics and entertainment and a frequent critic of Limbaugh. “The kind of antagonism and vituperativeness that characterized him instantly became acceptable everywhere.”
Despite such controversies, Limbaugh was ubiquitous in Republican circles and a giant in radio, earning upwards of $50 million a year.
His idol, former President 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, he was credited with helping the GOP win control of both houses of Congress. Four years later he was a key figure in the efforts to impeach President Bill Clinton.
He was also a major supporter of the administration of former President George W. Bush, as well as a vocal advocate for President Donald Trump. Trump released the following statement on Limbaugh’s passing:
“The great Rush Limbaugh has passed away to a better place, free from physical pain and hostility. His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced. Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for. Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans—a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves. Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly.”
In an interview with NewsNation, Limbaugh’s former producer Stuart Krane remembered him as a hard worker while also recognizing his controversial nature.
“I would take him to an early dinner every night before going back to Connecticut and have dinner with my own family,” said Krane. “So I got to know him real well. He was up all night preparing for this radio show and it was incredibly innovative.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.