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Radio host Rush Limbaugh dies


Rush Limbaugh with first Lady Melania Trump (right) and his wife Kathryn at the 2020 State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington Associated Press/Photo by Patrick Semansky (file)

Radio host Rush Limbaugh dies

Rush Limbaugh, the conservative commentator who transformed the media landscape with his off-the-cuff, no-holds-barred style, has died. He was 70. His fans saw him as a conservative hero, deserving of the nation’s highest civilian honor. At the 2020 State of the Union address, President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom “in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity.” Accusations of racism, sexism, and hypocrisy also followed him throughout his career, and at times he apologized for hurtful remarks such as the time he accused actor Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his tremors from Parkinson’s disease. But even Limbaugh’s critics could not deny his lasting influence on how American media outlets talk about politics—and life.

How did he make such an imprint? His big break came in 1987, when the Federal Communications Commission under President Ronald Reagan repealed the Fairness Doctrine, a rule that required broadcast stations to air contrasting views on controversial matters. Limbaugh, who had been on the radio for a few years in Sacramento, Calif., could suddenly express his conservative political views unencumbered. In 1988, he landed a nationally syndicated show on WABC-AM out of New York City. His success became a road map for how AM radio could survive as a talk show platform as music shifted to FM for its superior sound quality.

Limbaugh often encouraged listeners to give to various charities, and he gave $4.2 million to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation. In 2008, he ranked fourth on the Forbes list of most generous celebrities. An addiction to painkillers threatened to derail his career when it became public in 2003. He entered rehab and made a deal with prosecutors to avoid criminal charges. Around the same time, he lost his hearing but was able to continue as a radio host with the help of Cochlear implants. He married his fourth wife, Kathryn Rogers, in 2010.

Limbaugh often mentioned on his show that he believed in God, and his brother David is a devout Christian who has written several books about the Bible and apologetics. Just over a year ago, Limbaugh announced on the air that he had lung cancer, saying he was relying on God to get him through it. “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” he later said. “It is of immense value, strength, confidence and that’s why I’m able to remain fully committed to the idea that what is supposed to happen will happen when it’s meant to.”

Editor’s note: WORLD has updated this report since its initial posting.


Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital's managing editor. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute, the Missouri School of Journalism, and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Lynde resides with her family in Wichita, Kansas.

@lmlangdon

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Tim Miller

Cyborg3, I respected Rush a lot. He did have talent, on loan from God. Whether he said that arrogantly or not, like all of us will, he is giving an account for how he used that talent. I enjoyed listening to him; he was engaging, funny, and a warm person.

Having said that, he said some things that did not help his cause, and that created controversy during his lifetime. I don't think it's liberal bias to mention those in an article by a news magazine. 

I remember being a lonely Republican, waiting tables at a family restaurant, and talking to an African American counter customer who was dismayed by Limbaugh's statement about Obama: "I hope he fails." I know what Limbaugh meant; he explained it, and he believed Obama's policies were harmful, therefore if Obama succeeded, America was in trouble. But this customer (and many others) didn't hear that. They heard that in a moment of great hope for America, Rush was rooting for the first Black President to fail. And that phrase, however well intentioned, contributed to a great deal of division, and made it that much harder for those of us who were trying to make the conservative case across racial lines. That's a memory I have.

I also remember getting a radio for Christmas and discovering talk radio. I heard Sean Hannity first as a guest host, and remember the frequent references to F. Lee Levin. I still have Paul Shanklin's parodies stuck in my head -- every Christmas, I find myself singing, "I'll be home for Christmas, you'll be overseas; you'll have snow and frozen toes, all in the name of peace"! My uncle subscribed to the Limbaugh Letter, and gave them to me after he read them. I devoured them, especially the "stupid quotes" section. I still remember the first Clinton joke I heard ... at Thanksgiving in 1992, my uncle asked, "Did you hear the people in Arkansas are going to have to eat hamburgers for Thanksgiving," or something like that. (The punchline, of course: "They sent their turkey to Washington.") Limbaugh, as I recall, was the source.

Maybe the first two political books I read were The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So. I don't remember much about either book, except Dan's Bake Sale.

But Rush was an institution growing up. My parents listened to him. I listened to him, when I wasn't in school. In my conservative Christian circles, we took Rush's opinions seriously. (Even, to my surprise, his opinions on second hand smoke and regulations on tobacco.) 

One of the things, in my opinion, Rush did as well or better than almost anyone in his field, was making the case against abortion and for life. He was probably a large force (as was Reagan) in moving the GOP to a more conservative position on life. Although he wouldn't have been considered an evangelical Christian, probably, he understood evangelicals and spoke our language, and defended us. (When I say "spoke our language," I probably need to note that his foul language was gratuituous and not worthy of his communication skills.)

From listening to friends of his share memories, it is clear that Rush was more than a public figure. He cared deeply about his friends, and gave generously to his friends and others. He was as generous, it seems, with his platform as he was with his money, using his influence and wisdom to build up friendly competitors in his industry. You're right to note that all of the conservative talkers who seem such fixtures wouldn't be there if it weren't for Rush -- and he helped many of them on their way up.

Rush is complex, but in death, he certainly deserves to be remembered accurately and honored here. As far as Heaven, I have every confidence that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

Rush Limbaugh, like all of us, will stand the final judgment. Like all of us, his earthly accomplishments will not be his refuge. Like all of us, his only hope in that day is the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. God help us all to live ready!

AlanE

With respect to, "I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” I hope so. I was not a fan, but the desire that he eventually developed a relationship with Jesus Christ remains, even so.

"Talent on loan from God," always sounded more like a boast to me than a humble reflection on God's gifts. I know there are those who differ with me on that. Perhaps the ambiguity was deliberate on Limbaugh's part, but the tagline was recorded in a way that left an overtone of boasting. I always felt that humility should be more characteristic of a believer than I saw evidenced in Rush Limbaugh. That kind of self-assurance may make for good radio, but I don't believe it makes for healthy souls. I listened to his program enough times that I believe I came by that perception through listening to him and not to others comment about him.

Certainly, for better or for worse, he shaped much of what became modern conservatism. 

EWB

I agree.  He was one of kind.  I never enjoyed listening to anyone more.  He will be missed. 

Tim Miller

"Talent on loan from God," now returned to His Maker.

I wonder what he would share with us if he had one more three hour show to do now.

Praying that God comforts his family and team and many friends. Rush will certainly be missed.