Rush Limbaugh, the right-wing radio megastar whose slashing, divisive style of mockery and grievance reshaped American conservatism, denigrating Democrats, environmentalists, “feminazis” (his term), and other liberals while presaging the rise of Donald J.
Trump, died on Wednesday at his home in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 70.
His wife, Kathryn, announced the death at the start of Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show, a decades-long destination for his flock of more than 15 million listeners.
“I know that I am most certainly not the Limbaugh that you tuned in to listen to today,” she said, before adding that he had died that morning from complications of lung cancer.
Mr. Limbaugh revealed a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer last February. A day later, Mr. Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during the State of the Union address.
Since his emergence in the 1980s as one of the first broadcasters to take charge of a national political call-in show, Mr.
Limbaugh transformed the once-sleepy sphere of talk radio into a relentless right-wing attack machine, his voice a regular feature of daily life — from homes to workplaces and the commute in between — for millions of devoted listeners.
He became a singular figure in the American media, fomenting mistrust, grievances, and even hatred on the right for Americans who did not share their views, and he pushed baseless claims and toxic rumors long before Twitter and Reddit became havens for such disinformation.
In politics, he was not only an ally of Mr. Trump but also a precursor, combining media fame, right-wing scare tactics, and over-the-top showmanship to build an enormous fan base and mount attacks on truth and facts.
His conspiracy theories ranged from baldfaced lies about Barack Obama’s birthplace — the president “has yet to have to prove that he’s a citizen,” he said falsely in 2009 — to claims that Mr. Obama’s 2009 health care bill would empower “death panels” and “euthanize” elderly Americans. In the wake of last year’s election, he amplified Mr.
Trump’s groundless claims of voter fraud; on President Biden’s Inauguration Day, during one of his final broadcasts, he insisted to listeners that the new administration had “not legitimately won it.”
In 1995, in the days after the Oklahoma City bombing, President Bill Clinton denounced the “promoters of paranoia” on talk radio — remarks that were widely seen as aimed at Mr. Limbaugh.
“We hear so many loud and angry voices in America today whose sole goal seems to be to try to keep some people as paranoid as possible and the rest of us all torn up and upset with each other,” Mr. Clinton said.
Rush Limbaugh Dies at 70; Turned Talk Radio Into a Right-Wing Attack Machine