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TALK RADIO PIONEER RUSH LIMBAUGH PASSES AWAY AT AGE 70

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Rush Limbaugh, who transformed talk radio and politics in his decades behind the microphone, helping shape the modern-day Republican Party, died today at the age of 70 after a battle with lung cancer.

Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement on his radio show.

He learned he had Stage IV lung cancer in January 2020 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Trump at the State of the Union address days later. First lady Melania Trump then presented America’s highest civilian honor to Limbaugh in an emotional moment on the heels of his devastating cancer diagnosis.

Limbaugh is considered one of the most influential media figures in American history and has played a consequential role in conservative politics since “The Rush Limbaugh Show” began in 1988. Perched behind his Golden EIB (Excellence in Broadcasting) Microphone, Limbaugh spent over three decades as arguably both the most beloved and polarizing person in American media.

The program that began 33 years ago on national syndication with only 56 radio stations grew to be the most listened-to radio show in the United States, airing on more than 600 stations, according to the show’s website. Up to 27 million people tuned in on a weekly basis and Limbaugh has lovingly referred to his passionate fan base as “Dittoheads,” as they would often say “ditto” when agreeing with the iconic radio host.

In his final radio broadcast of 2020, Limbaugh thanked his listeners and supporters, revealing at the time that he had outlived his prognosis.

“I wasn’t expected to be alive today,” he said. “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.”

Limbaugh, born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri January 12, 1951, began his radio career in 1967 as a “helper” when he was only 16 years old. He eventually graduated to disk jockey and worked at a small station roughly 100 miles south of St. Louis while attending high school.

“I was totally consumed,” Limbaugh told the New York Times in 1990, noting that his idol was a Chicago radio host named Larry Lujack. By 1971, Limbaugh was a morning radio host in Pittsburgh, where he was oddly told to cover a certain amount of “farm news” because the area was surrounded by many agriculture communities. In 2007 he explained to listeners how the young radio host managed to keep listeners despite the bizarre requirement.

“The last thing that the audience of my show cares about is farm news. If farm news came on, bam! They pushed the button and go somewhere else. So, we had to figure out, ‘Okay, how do we do this and protect the license?’ So I turned the farm news every day into a funny bit with farm sound effects and the roosters crowing and so forth, and I’d make fun of the stockyard feed prices or whatever it was, so that we could say, ‘We’re doing barn news,’ agriculture news. There was all kinds of things like that,” Limbaugh told listeners.

The tidbit offered a glimpse into Limbaugh’s early days, proving that he was a master of keeping audiences engaged from a young age. Limbaugh has said he realized America was the “greatest country ever” when taking trips to Europe and Asia in his late 20s and early 30s, an experience that helped shape his political views.

Limbaugh was eventually enshrined in the Radio Hall of Fame and the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He was a five-time winner of the National Association of Broadcasters Marconi Award for “Excellence in Syndicated and Network Broadcasting,” a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2008 and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009.

 


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