In 1989, I moved my family from Louisiana to Indianapolis and become the PM Drive host at WTPI-FM. I loved radio. I fell in love with it at age 16 when my high school Speech teacher — who was a part-time radio News Announcer — suggested I drop by his station in Franklin, Louisiana. I needed a part-time job and he said he thought they “had something.” I assumed I would be doing janitorial work and thought it would be cool to hang out at a real radio station.
I went to interview with the station GM. Imagine my surprise when he walked me down the hall into a production studio, sat me behind a microphone, and handed me a news story to read as they recorded it. Two days after that interview I became an afternoon DJ playing Top-40 hits at KFRA!
I “used” radio throughout my teenage years. It gave me part-time income and some prestige as a “Radio Announcer” with many of my friends. I worked my way through college working full time in Radio while going to school full time, too.
Eventually, after dabbling in a couple of other professions I went back to radio. Thus WTPI called and gave me a dream job. And one of the best parts of that job is an introduction to Rush Limbaugh and his conservative radio talk show. He’s been my “friend” since — until Wednesday. My “friend” and radio hero lost his battle with lung cancer. Rush Limbaugh, dead at 70.
My Parting Memories of Rush Limbaugh You May Have Missed
Rush Limbaugh, the radio host who ripped into liberals, foretold the rise of Donald Trump and laid waste to political correctness with a merry brand of malice that made him one of the most powerful voices on the American right, died Wednesday.
Limbaugh, an outspoken lover of cigars, had been diagnosed with lung cancer. His death was announced on his website.
President Trump, during a State of the Union speech, awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
Unflinchingly conservative, wildly partisan, bombastically self-promoting, and larger than life, Limbaugh galvanized listeners for more than 30 years with his talent for vituperation and sarcasm.
He called himself an entertainer, but his rants during his three-hour weekday radio show broadcast on nearly 600 U.S. stations shaped the national political conversation, swaying ordinary Republicans and the direction of their party.
Blessed with a made-for-broadcasting voice, he delivered his opinions with such certainty that his followers, or “Ditto-heads,” as he dubbed them, took his words as sacred truth.
“In my heart and soul, I know I have become the intellectual engine of the conservative movement,” Limbaugh, with typical immodesty, told author Zev Chafets in the 2010 book “Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One.”
Forbes magazine estimated his 2018 income at $84 million, ranking him behind only Howard Stern among radio personalities.
Limbaugh took as a badge of honor the title “most dangerous man in America.” He said he was the “truth detector,” the “doctor of democracy,” a “lover of mankind,” a “harmless, lovable little fuzz ball” and an “all-around good guy.” He daily stated he had “talent on loan from God.”
Long before Trump’s rise in politics, Limbaugh was pinning insulting names on his enemies and raging against the mainstream media, accusing it of feeding the public lies. He called Democrats and others on the left communists, wackos, feminazis, liberal extremists, faggots and radicals.
Limbaugh often enunciated the Republican platform better and more entertainingly than any party leader, becoming a GOP kingmaker whose endorsement and friendship were sought. Polls consistently found he was regarded as the voice of the party.
His idol, Ronald Reagan, wrote a letter of praise that Limbaugh proudly read on the air in 1992: “You’ve become the number one voice for conservatism.” In 1994, Limbaugh was so widely credited with the first Republican takeover of Congress in 40 years that the GOP made him an honorary member of the new class.
During the 2016 presidential primaries, Limbaugh said he realized early on that Trump would be the nominee, and he likened the candidate’s deep connection with his supporters to his own. In a 2018 interview, he conceded Trump is sometimes rude but said that is because he is “fearless and willing to fight against the things that no Republican has been willing to fight against.”
Trump, for his part, heaped praise on Limbaugh, and they golfed together. (The president’s Mar-a-Lago estate is eight miles down the same Palm Beach boulevard as Limbaugh’s beachfront expanse.) In honoring Limbaugh at the State of the Union, Trump called his friend “a special man beloved by millions.”
Limbaugh influenced the likes of Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and countless other conservative commentators who pushed the boundaries of “acceptable public discourse.”
His brand of blunt, no-gray-area debate spread to cable TV, town hall meetings, political rallies, and Congress itself, emerging during the battles over health care and the ascent of the tea party movement.
“What he did was to bring a paranoia and really mean, nasty rhetoric and hyperpartisanship into the mainstream,” said Martin Kaplan, a University of Southern California professor who is an expert on the intersection of politics and entertainment and a frequent critic of Limbaugh. “The kind of antagonism that characterized him instantly became acceptable everywhere.”
His foes accused him of trafficking in half-truths, bias, and outright lies — the very tactics he decried in others. Al Franken, the comedian, and one-time senator came out with a book in 1996 called “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations.”
In 2003, Limbaugh admitted to an addiction to painkillers and went into rehab.
He lost his hearing around that time. He said it was from an autoimmune disorder, while his critics said hearing loss is a known side effect of painkiller abuse. He received cochlear implants, which restored his hearing and saved his career.
A portly, round-faced figure, Limbaugh was divorced three times, after marrying Roxy Maxine McNeely in 1977, Michelle Sixta in 1983, and Marta Fitzgerald in 1994. He married his fourth wife, Kathryn Rogers, in a lavish 2010 ceremony featuring Elton John. He had no children.
Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born Jan. 12, 1951, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. His mother was the former Mildred Armstrong, and his father, Rush Limbaugh Jr., was a lawyer.
Rusty, as the younger Limbaugh was known, was chubby and shy, with little interest in school but a passion for broadcasting. He would turn down the radio during St. Louis Cardinals baseball games, offering play-by-play, and gave a running commentary during the evening news. By high school, he had snagged a radio job.
Limbaugh dropped out of Southeast Missouri State University for a string of DJ gigs, from his hometown to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to Pittsburgh, and then Kansas City. Known as Rusty Sharpe and then Jeff Christie on the air, he mostly spun Top 40 hits and sprinkled in glimpses of his wit and conservatism.
“One of the early reasons radio interested me was that I thought it would make me popular,” he once wrote.
But he didn’t gain the following he craved and gave up on the radio for several years, beginning in 1979, becoming promotions director for baseball’s Kansas City Royals. He ultimately returned to broadcasting, again in Kansas City and then Sacramento, California.
It was there in the early 1980s that Limbaugh really garnered an audience, broadcasting shows dripping with sarcasm and bravado. The stage name was gone.
Limbaugh began broadcasting nationally in 1988 from WABC in New York. While his know-it-all commentary quickly gained traction, he was dismayed by his reception in the big city. He thought he would be welcomed by Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, and Dan Rather.
“I came to New York,” he wrote, “and I immediately became a nothing, a zero.”
Ultimately, Limbaugh moved his radio show to Palm Beach and bought his massive estate. Talkers Magazine, which covers the industry, said Limbaugh had the nation’s largest audience in 2019, with 15 million unique listeners each week.
“When Rush wants to talk to America, all he has to do is grab his microphone. He attracts more listeners with just his voice than the rest of us could ever imagine,” Beck wrote in Time magazine in 2009. “He is simply on another level.”
Limbaugh expounded on his world view in the best-selling books “The Way Things Ought to Be” and “See, I Told You So.”
He had a late-night TV show in the 1990s that got decent ratings but lackluster advertising because of his divisive message. When he guest-hosted “The Pat Sajak Show” in 1990, audience members called him a Nazi and repeatedly shouted at him.
He was fired from a short-lived job as an NFL commentator on ESPN in 2003 after he said the media had made a star out of Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb because it was “very desirous that a black quarterback do well.” His racial remarks also derailed a 2009 bid to become one of the owners of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams.
“Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night and just think to yourself, `I am just full of hot gas?’” David Letterman asked him in 1993 on “The Late Show.”
“I am a servant of humanity,” Limbaugh replied. “I am in the relentless pursuit of the truth. I actually sit back and think that I’m just so fortunate to have this opportunity to tell people what’s really going on.”
I never met Rush, but I knew him: every one of his listeners felt they knew him. He was that kind of communicator.
He seldom discussed religion, although it was easy to tell he held a personal relationship with God. Not long after his announcement to the nation he was diagnosed with and fighting lung cancer, Rush began to speak on air about his faith. For me, he just dotted an “i” by talking about his God. I already knew he was a Christian.
Wednesday, my wife met me as I finished my daily talk show, “TNN Live,” with the news of Rush’s passing. I failed to hold back the tears.
I could not control my sadness or the tears as I thought through my 31-year relationship with the nation’s ONLY real Talk Show host. It was as if I lost my biological sibling.
Rush meant much to many people. And in each of us ditto-heads, he filled a different role. But for all those who dared listen objectively to his opinions that were primarily about politics, they each learned much about politics in the U.S. and the World. But they learned much about themselves. Rush forced his listeners to think through numerous principles and ideas that most had never considered. He helped numerous of us to find a grounding in the truth. That was Rush’s gift to us all.
Rush is why this website is named TruthNewsNet.org. He challenged me deeper than almost all others in my life to research, investigate, and dig hard about everything that I deemed important in my life. I learned to never just accept the easy path on fact-finding missions. I learned to hunger to discover “what’s really going on.” More often than not, I DID discover those truths. I never gave up until I “got it.”
I tried a few times to get through on his studio line: _1-800-282-2882.” I never got through because of the millions of ditto-heads that shared Rush with me. That’s OK. The good I received from him and his show wasn’t meant to be from a personal conversation, rather from a charge to me that I heard often from him that gave me a hunger to find facts. Those facts AND the journey to unearth them was what he would have spoken to me about anyway!
Who can take his place? That is really a stupid question — No one ever will. There will be those who try. But anyone who thinks they can equal or beat him had better understand that’s something that no one has ever accomplished. He is gone, but even in his absence, I can honestly say this: Rush Limbaugh is STILL the Number One Talk Show Host in the United States.
So long, my friend. We’ll meet again. I can’t wait to see you face-to-face in the “Heavenly” EIB Studios where I hope to share another golden EIB microphone beside you for a show or two.