Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has died, family members announced on his nationally syndicated radio show. He was 70.
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, announced her husband’s death on Wednesday.
“I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone now, welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting,” she said. “It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer.”
She remembered her husband as “the greatest of all time.”
“Rush was an extraordinary man, a gentle giant -- brilliant, quick-witted, genuinely kind, extremely generous, passionate, courageous and the hardest working person I know,” she said. “Despite being one of the most recognized, powerful people in the world, Rush never let the success change his core or beliefs.”
Limbaugh revealed on his radio show last year that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer on Jan. 20, 2020, after noticing he had shortness of breath. The next month, before his diagnosis was made public, then-President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his “tireless devotion to our country.”
On Wednesday, Trump praised Limbaugh, calling him “irreplaceable” in a call to Fox News.
“He was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent, and people -- whether they loved him or not, they respected him,” Trump said. “They really did.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence credited Limbaugh with having “reinvented AM radio across the country.”
“There was a time when AM talk radio was in decline in the 1980s. Rush Limbaugh stepped into the gap. He essentially invented conservative talk radio,” Pence said Wednesday in a call to Fox News. “He was a broadcast pioneer and he inspired an entire generation of broadcasters across the country. ... He will be dearly missed.”
Limbaugh often enunciated the Republican platform better and more entertainingly than any party leader, becoming a GOP kingmaker whose endorsement and friendship were sought. Polls consistently found he was regarded as the voice of the party.
His foes accused him of trafficking in half-truths, bias and outright lies — the very tactics he decried in others. He was frequently accused of bigotry and blatant racism for such antics as playing the song “Barack the Magic Negro” on his show. The lyrics, set to the tune of “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” describe former President Barack Obama as someone who “makes guilty whites feel good” and is “Black, but not authentically.”
Born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in January 1951, Limbaugh first hit the airwaves when he was 16 as an on-air disc jockey for KGMO. He work a string of DJ gigs before leaving to work as promotions director for the Kansas City Royals. It wasn’t until after he returned to radio in the 1980s that he began to grow a significant audience.
Limbaugh launched his self-titled conservative talk radio show from New York in 1988. Since then, “The Rush Limbaugh Show” has expanded to air on 600 stations nationwide, garnering an audience of up to 20 million people weekly.
Limbaugh is survived by Kathryn, his fourth wife. He did not have children.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.