Rush Limbaugh, the man who many credit with helping transform talk radio and politics during his 30-plus years on the air, died Wednesday morning. He was 70.
Mr. Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, announced her husband’s death on his radio show.
“Losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life,” she said. “Rush will forever be the greatest of all time.”
Mr. Limbaugh was considered a radio icon and a leader of the modern-day Republican Party. He learned he had Stage IV lung cancer in January 2020, though the cause of death was not released on Wednesday.
Young America’s Foundation, whose Reagan Ranch Center is located in downtown Santa Barbara, issued a statement on Facebook and referred to Mr. Limbaugh as “one of the Conservative Movement’s boldest voices.”
“He worked tirelessly to spread the good news of conservatism to the masses, inspiring generations of freedom fighters,” the statement read. “Rest In Peace, Rush.”
“The Rush Limbaugh Show” began in 1988 and was broadcast by local radio station KTMS — named after former News-Press Publisher Thomas M. Storke, though not affiliated with the News-Press.
Local resident Jim Worthen considered himself a “close fan” of the late radio host, having called into Mr. Limbaugh’s show on several occasions over the years. Mr. Worthen also recalled seeing Mr. Limbaugh perform during “The Rush to Excellence” tour shows in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara.
Mr. Worthen took part in a talk radio show himself for many years, including several years in which he followed Mr. Limbaugh on the air.
“He was an inspiration to me and many others,” Mr. Worthen told the News-Press by phone Wednesday.
He added that he took many lessons from Mr. Limbaugh, including having the facts to back up your talking points, as well as the frequent use of humor.
Mr. Worthen later said that he has known only four men in his life: Jesus, his father, the late Santa Barbara congressman Robert Lagomarsino and Mr. Limbaugh.
“They all made me what I am today,” Mr. Worthen said.
The news of Mr. Limbaugh’s death drew mixed reviews on social media. Some used the occasion to remember Mr. Limbaugh for his legacy and contributions, and others appeared to celebrate the death of the man who was both beloved and one of the most polarizing people in American media.
The program that began 33 years ago on national syndication with only 56 radio stations grew to be the most listened-to radio show in the United States, airing on more than 600 stations, according to the show’s website. Up to 27 million people tuned in on a weekly basis, and Mr. Limbaugh has lovingly referred to his passionate fan base as “Dittoheads,” as they would often say “ditto” when agreeing with the iconic radio host.
In his final radio broadcast of 2020, Mr. Limbaugh thanked his listeners and supporters, revealing at the time that he had 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.”
Following his cancer diagnosis, Mr. Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address. Former first lady Melania Trump presented Mr. Limbaugh with America’s highest civilian honor in an emotional moment that came following the devastating cancer diagnosis.
During the address, Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Limbaugh for his “decades of tireless devotion” to the United States.
Mr. Trump released a statement on Wednesday, saying that Mr. Limbaugh went to “a better place, free from physical pain and hostility.”
“His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced,” Mr. Trump said. “Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for.
“Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans — a guiding light with the ability to see truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence referred to the late Mr. Limbaugh as “a Giant” and sent his sympathies to the Limbaugh family and “the millions of Americans who loved and cherished his incomparable voice.”
Former President George W. Bush also issued a statement on Mr. Limbaugh’s passing, calling him “an indomitable spirit with a big heart.”
“As he battled hearing loss and cancer late in life, he was sustained by the support of friends and family, his love of sports and rock and roll, and his belief in God and country. While he was brash, at times controversial and always opinionated, he spoke his mind as a voice for millions of Americans and approached each day with gusto,” the statement read.
Mr. Limbaugh was eventually enshrined in 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,” a No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and was named one of Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People in 2008 and one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009.