Right-wing media host Rush Limbaugh, who for decades used his perch as the king of talk-radio to shape the politics of both the Republican Party and nation, died Wednesday after a battle with cancer. He was 70 years old.
Limbaugh, who for 32 years hosted “The Rush Limbaugh Show,” a nationally-syndicated program with millions of loyal listeners, announced in February 2020 that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. Limbaugh continued to host his show while undergoing treatment, and he told listeners that he remained hopeful he would defeat the disease.
Limbaugh started a number of controversies with his commentary. He accused actor Michael J. Fox of exaggerating his Parkinson’s disease. he also insulted law school student Sandra Fluke. But he reserved his most controversial attacks for President Barack Obama, going as far as to fan the flames of birtherism, the discredited idea that Obama was born outside the United States and therefore not eligible to be President. And, in the last few years, he peddled “deep state” conspiracy theories, providing cover for President Donald Trump, who he counted as a friend.
A day after Limbaugh announced had been diagnosed with advanced cancer, then-President Trump awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a President can bestow on a civilian. The decision to award Limbaugh the medal ignited fury among those who pointed to the radio host’s divisive rhetoric and inflammatory comments.
“Empathy is due to anyone who is suffering. But not high honors, not a celebration of a life’s work devoted to the mockery and derision of the Other,” wrote David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker. “For the President of the United States to bestow one of the nation’s highest laurels on Limbaugh is a morally corrosive and politically cynical act.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.