Rush Limbaugh, the longtime conservative radio host, has died at the age of 70. The longtime cigar smoker announced in January 2020 he had developed lung cancer.
Limbaugh’s wife Kathyrn made the announcement on his radio show today.
A college dropout, Limbaugh began his radio career as a sports and rock radio host.
When the FCC repealed its Fairness Doctrine in 1987, which had required broadcasters to give equal time to points of view on both sides of the political spectrum, Limbaugh was left free to share his provocative and controversial opinions with his AM radio listeners.
For a short time, from 1992-1996, he hosted a national television show that never quite took off. But radio was his natural habitat.
Over the next three decades, he built up an audience of listeners that peaked at 15 million per week as he pushed an extreme right-wing agenda. In doing so, he became the highest-paid broadcast on terrestrial radio. In 2018, Forbes reported his earnings at $84.5 million.
In 1990, author Lewis Grossberger wrote in New York Times Magazine of Limbaugh:
“Unlike most radio talkers, who affect a casual, intimate style, Limbaugh sounds like he’s on a soapbox. He is intoxicated by words, especially those flowing from his own lips. His vocabulary is extensive; his diction tends to the grandiosely formal, though overblown to the point of self-parody. His nervous energy plays out through hands that never stop moving. They rattle the papers, slap the desk, punch the console. Whap! Whap! Whump! This muted percussion is often heard on the air, a rhythmic accompaniment to Limbaugh’s voice.”
That listenership grew and flourished on a diet of racist, sexist and homophobic opinions expressed daily on his radio show. Any liberal-leaning thought or position was fair game for Limbaugh’s humiliation including mocking sexual consent, climate change, LGBTQ rights, people dying of AIDS, and more.
From 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.
He was not above baldfaced lies. During the debate over Mr. Obama’s 2009 health care bill, he fed the rumor mills over its provisions to have Medicare and insurers pay for optional consultations with doctors on palliative and hospice care, saying they empowered “death panels” that would “euthanize” elderly Americans.
Just a few of the folks on Twitter remembering Limbaugh’s hideous “AIDS updates:”
Rush Limbaugh had a radio segment called “AIDS Update” where he’d read out the names of gay people who had died and celebrate with horns and bells.
So the whole “don’t speak ill of the dead” thing doesn’t apply to this absolute fucking monster.
Let him rot.
— Harry Cook (@HarryCook) February 17, 2021
Rush Limbaugh used to give an “AIDS Update” on his show, celebrating the gay people who’d died of AIDS that day.
So no… it’s not “liberal hypocrisy” to feel relieved that the world has one less homophobic bigot in it.#goodriddance
— Jake Lobin (@JakeLobin) February 17, 2021
on today’s AIDS Update, PrEP continues to keep community transmission of HIV low, and Rush Limbaugh continues to be dead
— lolo’s bizarre adventure (@vaginaspektor) February 17, 2021
In 2003, Limbaugh shared with the world he had become addicted to pain medications like Oxycontin, and in 2006 was arrested on prescription drug charges.
Ironically, Limbaugh had previously made the case that drug crimes deserve punishment.
In 1995, he told his television audience, “If people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up.”