Rush Limbaugh, the conservative commentator whose fiery rhetoric forged a new landscape for talk radio and inflamed the partisan divide that came to characterize political discourse in the U.S., has died, according to an announcement on his radio show Wednesday.
He was 70 years old.
“He wasn’t the first to do that kind of right-wing ideological commentary on the radio, but part of the appeal is also part of what used to get him in trouble, he would just go out there and say stuff no matter how outrageous it might be,” said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
Thompson compared him to the rise of former President Donald Trump, saying, “he would strip out the usual manners — and he would just say what he wanted.”
Decried by his critics as a bigot and revered by conservative listeners, the man who once said, “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians,” is also a Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient. That forever enshrines the host of the “Rush Limbaugh Show” alongside previous honorees including Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa and Neil Armstrong.
But in presenting the nation’s highest civilian honor during his February 2020 State of the Union address, Trump indicated that the timing of the award was at least partly motivated by the announcement earlier that month that Limbaugh was battling advanced lung cancer.
For the tens of millions of listeners who followed Limbaugh’s show, though, it’s a medal earned for delivering right-wing ideology a voice absent elsewhere in pop culture.
“You’ll note nobody takes me on on my ideas,” Limbaugh told NBC’s “TODAY” show in 2010. “Nobody argues, they always say, ‘God, you hear what he said? He’s this, he’s that, he’s outrageous, he’s bombastic.
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