Everything We Know About Rush Limbaugh’s Death

Conservative radio personality and political commentator Rush Limbaugh has died at age 70.

According to FOX News, it was Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, who announced at the top his radio show that he had died from lung cancer. “Losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life,” she said in an emotional tribute to her husband. “Rush will forever be the greatest of all time.”

According to Reuters, Rush revealed his lung cancer diagnosis to the public in February 2020 on his radio show. In October of that year, Rush announced that his cancer had progressed and was terminal, per CNN. 

“It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over,” Limbaugh said at the time. “Now, we all are, is the point. We all know that we’re going to die at some point, but when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.”

Though his right-wing viewpoints were often considered “divisive,” his broadcasts clearly resonated with many. According to Fox NewsThe Rush Limbaugh Show “grew to be the most listened-to radio show in the United States, airing on more than 600 stations.” IHeartRadio noted that at its peak, the show reached an audience of more than 43 million listeners. He continued to host his show until just weeks before his death. 

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Rush Limbaugh courted controversy for decades

Rush Limbaugh rose to fame as a conservative firebrand, hosting The Rush Limbaugh Show on the radio for more than 30 years, according to the Associated Press. He built a fanbase of millions who called themselves “Ditto-heads,” to reflect how often they agreed with him.

Limbaugh had his first taste of working in radio at age 16 while still in high school in Missouri. As The Wall Street Journal observed, his early career was bolstered when the FCC repealed the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987, which meant that controversial opinions could be aired without any required air time for opposing views. Limbaugh took advantage of that repeal to construct a career around controversy, per The New York Times. “In the Limbaugh lexicon, advocates for the homeless were ‘compassion fascists,’ women who favored abortion were ‘feminazis,’ environmentalists were ‘tree-hugging wackos.’ He delivered ‘AIDS updates’ with a Dionne Warwick song, ‘I’ll Never Love This Way Again,’ ridiculed Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and called global warming a hoax,” the NYT reported. He was a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and had called former President Barack Obama the “affirmative action candidate.”

Limbaugh also made headlines in 2006 when he was arrested on drug charges following an addiction to prescription pills, reported Politico.

Rush Limbaugh continued hosting his radio show after his cancer diagnosis

Rush Limbaugh continued hosting his radio show as his lung cancer worsened and more severe symptoms set in. According to Fox News, he “was deaf” by his final broadcasts, but soldiered on. USA Today reported that Limbaugh was “a longtime cigar smoker.”

In his final radio broadcast of 2020, Limbaugh said he “had outlived his prognosis,” per Fox News. “I wasn’t expected to be alive today,” he said on-air. “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 Limbaugh also told his listeners, per The New York Times, that “his cancer had grown worse” in 2020 “despite treatments.” As he said on-air, it was “going in the wrong direction.”

When announcing his death on her husband’s radio show, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh said (via The New York Times), “I know that I am most certainly not the Limbaugh that you tuned in to listen to today. I, like you … wish Rush was behind this golden microphone right now.” 

Former presidents pay tribute to Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh supported Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and the pair became friends and went golfing together at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort, according to the Associated Press. Trump also awarded Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in January 2020, only days after the radio host had learned of his lung cancer diagnosis, per Fox News.

On Feb. 17, 2021, Trump broke his post-presidency silence to speak about Limbaugh’s death on Fox News. “He was fighting to the very end,” Trump said. “He is a legend. He really is.”

Former President George W. Bush has also paid tribute to Limbaugh. “While he was brash, at times controversial, and always opinionated, he spoke his mind as a voice for millions of Americans and approached each day with gusto,” Bush said in a statement, per CNBC. “Rush Limbaugh was an indomitable spirit with a big heart, and he will be missed.”

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