Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio personality who was the bane of Democratic presidents and who built an audience of millions of listeners on the Right, has died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 70.
Limbaugh died Wednesday morning at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, his wife, Kathryn Adams Limbaugh, announced on his radio show.
Limbaugh, whose flair for showmanship and self-promotion led him to dub his five-days-a-week, three-hour radio program the "Excellence in Broadcasting" network, was one of the most influential conservative voices of the 1990s and for the first two decades of the 21st century.
Limbaugh was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Donald Trump during the 2020 State of the Union address, days after he publicly announced his diagnosis.
From his role in the 1994 "Gingrich Revolution," in which he was made an honorary member of the class of elected House Republicans, to his promotion of the Tea Party and his embrace of Trump, Limbaugh was one of the premier voices of the conservative movement, a figure who shaped political movements and generated tremendous controversy by reaching millions of listeners for hours each day.
His radio show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, was first nationally syndicated in 1988 in New York City and became the highest-rated talk show in the United States. He had hosted the show, which had a monthly audience of 25 million on more than 650 stations in 2018, from a home studio in West Palm Beach, Florida, since 1996.
Limbaugh regularly excoriated Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as other Democratic politicians in lower offices and liberal figures, over the decades.
Limbaugh announced on Feb. 3, 2020, that he had lung cancer and would miss broadcasting as he underwent treatment. Over the course of his treatment, Limbaugh occasionally missed days on his radio program. He shared updates about his diagnosis on his radio program regularly. In October 2020, he referred to his diagnosis as "terminal."
"My point in all of this today is gratitude," he said on his final show of 2020. "My point in all of this is to say thanks and tell everybody involved how much I love you from the bottom of a sizable and growing and still-beating heart."
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on Jan. 12, 1951, the son of a prominent lawyer in the conservative town. His radio career started at age 16 at local station KGMO-AM, using the name Rusty Sharpe. He enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University, but he left after two semesters.
His early radio career took him to Pennsylvania, Kansas City, and California from 1971 to 1988. In New York City on WABC-AM, he made a name for himself and developed his show.
The author of seven books, two of which made the New York Times Best Sellers list, Limbaugh also hosted a national television show from 1992 to 1996. He had won numerous awards and honors, including the Marconi Radio Award for Syndicated Radio Personality of the Year five times (1992,1995, 2000, 2005, and 2014), the inaugural William F. Buckley Jr. Award for Media Excellence by the Media Research Center in 2007, the Conservative Political Action Conference's "Defender of the Constitution Award" in 2009, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020.
Limbaugh was also inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1993, the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1998, and the Hall of Famous Missourians in 2012.
Limbaugh also battled with prescription drug addiction in the early and mid-2000s. In 2003, when the news of his addiction became public, he explained that the habit started "some years ago," following spinal surgery," which he said, "was unsuccessful and I continued to have severe pain in my lower back and also in my neck due to herniated discs. I am still experiencing that pain."
He and prosecutors agreed to a deal in 2006 that would drop the only charge against him, prescription fraud, if he continues his treatment. He took five weeks off from his radio program to enter a rehab program. Limbaugh said the addiction to pain medication began after he started taking medication for severe back pain.
He is survived by his wife, Kathryn Rogers, whom he married in 2010. The couple, Limbaugh's fourth wife, never had children.
— Emma Hagedorn contributed to this report.