Conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday at the age of 70 after being diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer last year, his family announced.
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement on his radio show.
“For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show,” Kathryn Limbaugh said. “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.”
The radio legend received the stage-four lung cancer diagnosis in January 2020. Then-President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom days later at the State of the Union address.
“This is not good news,” Trump said then of Limbaugh’s diagnosis. “But what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh: Thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
After launching The Rush Limbaugh Show in 1988, Limbaugh grew to become one of the most influential media figures in America, eventually hosting the most listened-to radio show in the U.S., airing on more than 600 stations.
He began his radio career in 1967 as a “helper” at just 16 years old and ultimately became a household name in talk radio, speaking to some 27 million people who tuned into his show on a weekly basis from behind his Golden EIB (Excellence in Broadcasting) Microphone. He dubbed his fans “Dittoheads,” as they would say “ditto” when they agreed with him.
In December, Limbaugh revealed on his show that he had already 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.”
Over his decades-long career, Limbaugh received a number of honors, including entry into 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” and a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author. In 2008, he was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People. One year later he was included in TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Limbaugh, a leading conservative voice of his generation, has been credited as playing a key role in the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress and, much later, with helping to legitimize the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump in 2016.
In 2009, he delivered an oft-quoted speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he offered an explanation of “who conservatives are.”
“We love people. When we look out over the United States of America, when we are anywhere, when we see a group of people, such as this or anywhere, we see Americans. We see human beings. We don’t see groups. We don’t see victims. We don’t see people we want to exploit. What we see — what we see is potential. We do not look out across the country and see the average American, the person that makes this country work. We do not see that person with contempt. We don’t think that person doesn’t have what it takes. We believe that person can be the best he or she wants to be if certain things are just removed from their path like onerous taxes, regulations and too much government,” Limbaugh told the crowd.
He continued: “We want every American to be the best he or she chooses to be. We recognize that we are all individuals. We love and revere our founding documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. We believe that the preamble to the Constitution contains an inarguable truth that we are all endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, Freedom and the pursuit of happiness.”
Limbaugh was forced to go off the air beginning February 2 as his health worsened, though he maintained his penchant for controversy in his final days of broadcasting.
Weeks after President Joe Biden won the election, Limbaugh questioned the validity of the results saying: “You didn’t win this thing fair and square, and we are not just going to be docile like we’ve been in the past and go away and wait ’til the next the election.”