Anti-LGBTQ+, anti-feminist, racist, and all-around hateful talk show host Rush Limbaugh has died.
His wife, Kathryn Limbaugh, announced his death on his radio show Wednesday morning. The cause was complications from lung cancer; he had revealed his diagnosis a year ago. He was 70.
A native of Cape Girardeau, Mo., Rush Limbaugh was a DJ and sportscaster before landing a talk show gig in Sacramento in 1984. In 1988 he joined a New York City station, and within two years The Rush Limbaugh Show was being carried on 300 stations nationwide, CNBC notes.
Over the years the host, who proclaimed he had “talent on loan from God,” racked up a seemingly endless list of incendiary comments. During the 2020 election season, he mocked Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for being gay.
Democratic leaders, he claimed, had to be “saying, ‘OK, how’s this going to look, 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump? What’s going to happen there?’” As it happened, Buttigieg never appeared next to Trump, but now Trump is out of office and Buttigieg is a member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet.
Among Limbaugh’s many other anti-LGBTQ+ statements, he has asserted that when a gay man turns his back, “it’s an invitation”; said the movement for equality is succeeding only “by virtue of force”; blamed marriage equality for incest; said a photo of a distraught gay child was faked; urged the Republican Party to denounce Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican herself, for being transgender; and predicted that photos of Melania Trump nude and embracing another woman, which were leaked during the 2016 presidential campaign, would lead LGBTQ+ people to vote for her husband. Early on, his show briefly had a segment called "AIDS Update" in which he mocked gay men who died of AIDS complications and blamed them for the disease. He later said he regretted running the segment, but he continued to blast homophobic commentary.
That’s in addition to calling feminist Sandra Fluke a “slut” because of her advocacy for insurance coverage of contraception; dubbing feminists “feminazis” and saying the movement has empowered unattractive women; describing Black athletes as “thugs”; defending his right to use the n word; playing a song about President Obama titled “Barack the Magic Negro” and falsely claiming Obama was not born in the U.S. and therefore ineligible to be president; and saying actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s disease, is faking his symptoms.
All that didn’t keep Trump from bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on Limbaugh. He received the medal during Trump’s State of the Union speech February 5, 2020, the day after his cancer diagnosis was announced. Trump called Limbaugh “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
The admiration was mutual. Even though Limbaugh had once claimed Trump was “not a conservative,” the host embraced Trump after he won the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. Then, after Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 presidential election, Limbaugh joined in spreading Trump’s lie that the election was stolen. “You [Democrats] didn’t win this thing fair and square, and we are not just going to be docile like we’ve been in the past and go away and wait ’til the next election,” he said on his show six weeks after the vote.
He even defended the mob of Trump supporters who invaded the U.S. Capitol January 6 in an effort to stop Congress from certifying Biden’s win. “There’s a lot of people calling for the end of violence,” he said on the program. “There’s a lot of conservatives, social media, who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable. Regardless of the circumstances. I’m glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.”
Limbaugh had been off the air since early February, with substitute hosts taking over his show. He got in a few more pro-Trump comments before departing, among them saying Trump “represents an uprising of the people of this country against Washington, against the establishment, and it had been building for a long time. ... Trump was just the first guy to come along and actually weaponize it.”
Limbaugh, who had no children, is survived by his wife and a brother, right-wing columnist David Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh was married four times, with his first three marriages ending in divorce. When Limbaugh married Kathryn Rogers in 2010, gay superstar Elton John sang at the festivities. John later said he sang for the noted homophobe because he hoped to start a dialogue with him.