Rush Limbaugh, who died in his 70s after suffering from cancer, virtually created the “shocking” style of political radio that made him so influential. Their broadcasts, which featured attacks on opponents as purveyors of what we now call “fake news,” became the model for Fox News television, and at their peak they played a major role in Newt Gingrich’s “Republican Revolution” of 1994. , which was recovered by the House of the United States. Representatives of the Bill Clinton Democrats.
Limbaugh set the tone for the political era of the Internet, calling women’s rights activists “feminazis”, referring to HIV / AIDS as “Rock Hudson’s disease” and claiming that “environmental nuts” were “a group of scientists organized around a political position “.
He argued that the existence of gorillas disproved evolution, characterized both the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (2010) and the mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand (2019) as “false flag” operations organized by Leftists, and accused Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe of allowing the 2017 Charlottesville riots to worsen to further his presidential ambitions. “Have you ever noticed how compound sketches of criminals always look [the black activist] Jesse Jackson? he asked his listeners.
When he cut off callers on air, he would make a vacuum cleaner noise, yelling “caller abort.” His listeners, whom he dubbed “ditto-heads,” ate it up, while those who were offended often tune in to express their disgust. In recent years, independent fact-checking site PolitiFact consistently rated Limbaugh in terms of “on fire” falsehoods, and just as consistently zero in truths.
Limbaugh (pronounced “LIM baw”) was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, to a family of conservative judges that included his father, whose name was also Rush. His mother, Mildred (née Armstrong), was the family clown and encouraged “Rusty” in his love of radio. He did poorly in school, then he quit Southeastern Missouri State University after a year and I found a job at a radio station in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, as a “single Jeff Christie,” but he was fired after he told a black person who said he found it hard to understand “take off the nose bone and knock again. “
He was then fired from an evening show in Pittsburgh when new management took office. In Kansas City, his morning talk show on current affairs at KUDL and then an evening talk show on KFIX ended in layoffs over what he described as differences with management; at this point he considered himself a “moderate failure.”
He married Roxy McNeely, a radio sales executive, in 1977; they divorced in 1980.
By then, Limbaugh was working with the Kansas City Royals baseball team on group ticket sales and special events, and in 1983 he married Michelle Sixta, an usher for the Royals’ Stadium Club. That year he returned to radio with KMBZ in Kansas City, but was again fired for being controversial, in part about the local Chiefs football team. However, a consultant who had enjoyed his KMBZ style suggested him as a candidate to replace the equally controversial Morton Downey Jr at KRBK in Sacramento, California, to which Limbaugh moved in 1984.
At KRBK, Limbaugh began to gain attention. In 1987, during the Ronald Reagan era, the Federal Communications Commission repealed the Fairness Doctrine, which required public airwaves users to allow equal time if they broadcast political opinions. This opened the floodgates for people like Limbaugh, and in 1988 he moved to WABC in New York, which became the flagship of a 56-station network broadcast of his show, scheduled, unusually for talks, at noon. In 1990 it had five million listeners.
Another godsend for his show was Clinton’s election in 1992, the year Limbaugh started a syndicated television show produced by future Fox News boss Roger Ailes.
Limbaugh’s deeply personal anti-Clinton campaign was so effective that when Gingrich and the Republicans retaken the House, they made him an honorary member of the Republican caucus. He and Sixta divorced in 1990 and in 1994 he married Marta Fitzgerald, an aerobics instructor. He told an interviewer that he struggled with love because, “I’m too in love with myself.”
The TV show ended in 1996, but on Limbaugh radio it was smooth sailing. He now lived in Palm Beach, Florida, where he produced his radio show from his “southern command” center.
In 2003, the ESPN sports network hired him as an analyst on their Monday Night Football broadcast team, but a few weeks after the season, he upset viewers by saying that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated “because the media is so eager for a quarterback to get it right.”
It was an especially odd comment given that a third of the league’s starting quarterbacks were black; that year one of them, Steve McNair of Tennessee, would be a joint winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player award. Limbaugh resigned three days later. The following Monday he admitted to being addicted to prescription drugs, including OxyContin.
He divorced Marta in 2004 and for the next two years he was romantically linked to CNN host Daryn Kagan. In 2006 Limbaugh was arrested upon his return from a trip to the Dominican Republic, where he had bought fake prescription viagra. Although the charges were dropped, WBAL in Baltimore became the first station to ditch its show.
The George W. Bush years seemed to stretch it; He said the American torture of prisoners in 2003 in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison “was no worse than what happens at a Skull and Bones initiation,” perhaps forgetting that Bush and his father were members of that secret university society. from Yale. But just as Clinton had been a godsend, Barack Obama seemed to inspire Limbaugh to new heights of partisan venom. In addition to claiming that Obama was born abroad, he accused the president of allowing Ebola to enter the United States in revenge for African slavery. When Republicans rallied in the 2010 midterm elections, Limbaugh reaped much of the credit.
In 2008, it had signed an eight-year, $ 400 million deal with broadcasting company Cumulus, and in 2013 it moved its local station to WOR in New York. After signing a four-year extension in 2018, his income that year totaled $ 84.5 million, second only to one of the original, non-political, fellow crash athletes, Howard Stern. In 2010, he married Kathryn Rogers, a party planner, for the fourth time. Elton John sang at his wedding reception for a fee of $ 1 million.
In 1992, Limbaugh wrote, with the John Fund, The Way Things Should Be. Both he and the 1993 sequel, Look, I Told You, were bestsellers. In 2013, he wrote the first in a series of six children’s books featuring a character named Rush Revere, named after American patriot Paul Revere, who goes back in time to adventure during the American Revolution.
In 2017, after the rise to the presidency of his Palm Beach neighbor, Donald Trump, Limbaugh joined Trump in suggesting that dire warnings about the possible impact of Hurricane Irma on Florida were fake news designed to push “an agenda of change. climate”. He quickly became the object of ridicule when he had to evacuate his home before the storm hit.
In January 2020 he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer; He announced it on the air the following month, the day before receiving the presidential medal of freedom from Trump. However, he did not fully support Trump’s attempts to overturn the election result; accused the president’s lawyers of failing to back up his claims of voter fraud.
She is survived by Kathryn.
• Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, broadcaster, born January 12, 1951; died on February 17, 2021
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