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Conservative Radio Host Rush Limbaugh Dead At 70 — What We Know So Far

Photo: Courtesy of rushlimbaugh.com
rush limbaugh

On February 17, 2021, Rush Limbaugh — a controversial conservative talk radio pioneer — died at the age of 70.

The announcement was made on his eponymous radio show, The Rush Limbaugh Show, by his fourth wife, Kathryn Limbaugh. 

Limbaugh's death is a currently a worldwide trending topic and people have very strong opinions about his passing. 

How did Rush Limbaugh die?

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He died of lung cancer. 

"I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone right now, welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting. 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," said Kathryn Limbaugh.

Limbaugh was a lifelong cigar smoker, which doctors say caused his lung cancer. 

Rush Limbaugh had a variety of other ailments prior to getting diagnosed with lung cancer. 

He struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life — an addiction which only came to light in 2003 after the National Enquirer published a damning expose about his quest to illegally acquire oxycodone and hydrocodone — and he ultimately entered rehab to combat the addiction.

In 2001, he also revealed that he was "100% deaf," and confirmed that the condition was not hereditary. He ultimately got cochlear implants to restore his hearing.

He was considered the pioneer of conservative talk radio. 

Fox News is correct when they say that Rush Limbaugh "helped shape the modern Republican Party." 

The Rush Limbaugh Show became the most-listened to radio show in the United States, airing on more than 600 radio stations and reaching more than 27 million listeners in its prime.

Limbaugh got his start on a small McKeesport, PA radio station called WIXZ, where he went by the name "Bachelor Jeff" Christie and earned comparisons to Don Imus.

In 1983, he started broadcasting under his real name, replacing Morton Downey Jr. in several markets.

But it wasn't until 1991 and his move to New York City's WABC and subsequent syndication that Limbaugh became the ever-present force that he is today. 

He frequently donated to charity.

Throughout his life, Rush Limbaugh got very involved with different charities.

He was a supporter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society — and even held an annual telethon for its benefit. He also got involved with the Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation, and with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

But Rush Limbaugh also held very vitriolic views. 

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Leaving the politics aside, Rush Limbaugh held some views that, at best, can be viewed as vitriolic. . 

He frequently hurled racist invective at Black people, believed that sexual consent was a "leftist" policy, hurled abuse at police officers who were "lenient" on drug addicts (even though he was an addict himself), and referred to feminists as "FemiNazis" (and one newspaper reported that it was his favorite slur to hurl, citing it as, at least, the most common of all of his preferred invective).

And while he was an outspoken critic of Barack Obama and an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump — which, again, boils down to politics — the true criticisms of Rush Limbaugh's beliefs came much later in his life, when he alleged that international financier George Soros wanted to start a "Second American Civil War" by destabilizing the economy, and when he praised the seditious attack on the nation's Capitol

Reaction on social media was swift, and not necessarily positive. 

When a public figure dies, there's usually comments from "both sides," but even the more critical types of commentary are tempered with respect for the dead.

Rush Limbaugh's death, however, proved he was just as polarizing in life as he was in death. While the usual pundits sang his praises, others pointed out that he was a terrible human being who had terrible views and whose death shouldn't be mourned

In 2021, we've learned that passion and politics make a volatile — and deadly — mix.

We've also learned that social policies have seeped into politics (because, let's be fair, Democrats and Republicans aren't at odds because they can't agree on whether trickle-down economics is a fiscally-sound policy), which only adds more powder to an already incendiary powder keg.

But the extreme polarity of our division isn't something we should continue in 2021. 

Rush Limbaugh was a complicated man who left behind a complicated legacy.

If nothing else, his life was a lesson to us all. What we choose to take from that lesson is up to us. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, photographer and publicist whose work has been featured in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more.