MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) - Rush Limbaugh, the influential conservative radio host, and South Florida resident, has died from complications of lung cancer, his wife Kathryn announced on his radio show Wednesday.
He was 70 years old.
"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 said. "As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life. Rush will forever be the greatest of all-time."
Limbaugh, who lived in Palm Beach, announced in February 2020 that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. He continued to host his show while undergoing treatment, and he told listeners that he remained hopeful he would defeat the disease.
A pioneer of AM talk-radio, Limbaugh for 32 years hosted "The Rush Limbaugh Show," a nationally-syndicated program with millions of loyal listeners that transfigured him into a partisan force and polarizing figure in American politics. In many ways, his radio show was like the big bang of the conservative media universe. "TheRush Limbaugh Show" helped popularize the political talk-radio format and usher in a generation of conservative infotainment.
More recently, Limbaugh appeared to approve of some forms of political violence in the immediate aftermath of the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol. He also drew backlash at the outset of the pandemic when he dismissed the coronavirus as the "common cold" and contended that it was being "weaponized" by members of the mainstream press to bludgeon Trump and harm his re-election chances. The missive was classic Limbaugh, who built a career on expressing strong distrust of the established press order and referred to himself as "America's Anchorman."
Despite his penchant for pushing conspiracy theories and peddling misinformation that benefited Trump and the other political figures he supported over the years, Limbaugh acknowledged the weight of his words in a 2008 interview with The New York Times.
"I take the responsibility that comes with my show very seriously," Limbaugh told the newspaper. "I want to persuade people with ideas. I don't walk around thinking about my power. But in my heart and soul, I know I have become the intellectual engine of the conservative movement."
Limbaugh had some personal setbacks. In 2001, Limbaugh suffered hearing loss due to an autoimmune inner ear disease. He later received a cochlear implant. In 2003, Limbaugh announced that he was addicted to pain medication and would seek treatment. Limbaugh said he had become addicted after back surgery. In 2006, he was charged with "doctorshopping." His attorney said he pleaded not guilty and that the charge would be dropped once he completed 18 months of drug treatment.
Throughout it all, Limbaugh remained the king of conservative talk-radio, earning a fortune along the way. Limbaugh Florida estate had five houses. He expressed an affinity for expensive cars. And he owned a personal plane.
At the time of the 2008 New York Times interview, Limbaugh was nearing a contract renewal with Premiere Radio Networks which he estimated was worth approximately $38 million a year. He told The Times that the contract included a nine-figure signing bonus. In January, Premiere Radio Networks told CNN Business that Limbaugh had renewed a "long-term agreement," but did not disclose other details. Trump said at a rally, however, that it was for an additional four years.
In 2010, Limbaugh married his fourth wife, Kathryn Rogers, a 33-year-old event planner. Limbaugh paid a reported $1 million for Elton John to perform at the event, which was attended by members of the Republican elite, including Sean Hannity, Rudolph Giuliani, and Karl Rove.
Limbaugh was generous with his wealth. He once ranked fourth on Forbes' list of most generous celebrities, having donated $4.2 million to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, about 13% of his earnings that, the publication said. Limbaugh has also used his show to rally listeners to donate to various charities throughout the years, helping to raise millions of dollars for those in need. In recent years, he and his wife started the Rush and Kathryn Adams Limbaugh Family Foundation.
In the last years of his life, Limbaugh, like most in conservative media, did everything in his power to protect Trump, resorting to peddling disinformation and conspiracy theories to his audience. He attacked the so-called "deep state," Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and other perceived enemies of Trump.
When Trump faced an impeachment trial the first time in the Senate, Limbaugh went to bat for him each day. Limbaugh attacked then-candidate Joe Biden, while simultaneously defending Trump. Limbaugh told his listeners that Trump's only offense was being "too successful."
"He's being impeached because his successes threaten great damage to the Democrat Party," Limbaugh claimed.
During Trump's second impeachment, Limbaugh accused Democrats of advancing an "abject lie" about Trump's involvement in the insurrection as part of a political effort to disqualify him from running for office again. Limbaugh said Democrats were "deathly afraid" Trump would retain his power over the Republican Party and so they wanted to "stop" him "from having a public life."
Limbaugh announced in February 2020 that he had been diagnosed with advanced cancer. A day later, 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.
Limbaugh, who had a close relationship with his radio audience, told his listeners that he appreciated the "love and affection" he had received, saying it was "unlike anything I've ever dreamed of or experienced." But he said he preferred not to talk often about his treatment or health.
"Let me remind you, I told you at the beginning of this that I'm very flattered by all of you who care," Limbaugh said."Don't misunderstand. But I vowed not to let this take control of my life. I've seen that happen. It's hard not to. It's a terminal disease for a lot of people. It takes over your life. I've vowed to not let that happen as much as I can."
(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)
for more features.