Conservative US talk radio luminary Rush Limbaugh has died at the age of 70 of lung cancer, his wife Kathryn has announced.
Limbaugh, who pioneered the US media phenomenon of conservative talk radio and became an enthusiastic combatant in the US culture wars, had announced in February 2020 that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
Limbaugh’s appeal and the success of his top-rated radio show arose from his brash and colourful style, his delight in baiting Democrats and his promotion of conservative and Republican causes and politicians.
His radio show became syndicated across the US in 1988 and quickly built a large and committed following, making him wealthy in the process.
Former US president Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh the highest US civilian honour – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – during his 2020 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
First lady Melania Trump placed the medal around his neck after her husband lauded Limbaugh as “a special man beloved by millions of Americans” and “the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet”.
Illustrating Limbaugh’s divisiveness, some Democratic lawmakers were heard groaning “oh no” while House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi – one of his favourite punching bags – sat in stony silence.
Mr Trump honoured Limbaugh a day after the radio star announced his cancer diagnosis.
At the time, Limbaugh said he planned to continue to do his program “as normally and as competently” as he could while he had treatment.
On Thursday (Australian time), the former US president called Fox News to thank Limbaugh for supporting his baseless campaign to overturn the 2020 US election results.
“Rush Limbaugh thought we won,” Mr Trump said.
“So do I by the way. I think we won substantially … You would have had riots going all over the place if that happened to a Democrat. We don’t have the same support at certain levels of the Republican system.”
Mr Trump lauded Limbaugh as a “legend” with impeccable political instincts who “was fighting till the very end”.
Elsewhere, former president George W Bush said Limbaugh “spoke his mind as a voice for millions of Americans”.
Mr Trump’s vice-president, Mike Pence, also paid tribute, describing Limbaugh as “a giant”. Mr Pence is also a former conservative radio and TV host.
Limbaugh had experienced a variety of medical problems over the years, including a loss of hearing reversed by a cochlear implant as well as an addiction to prescription painkillers that landed him in rehab in 2003.
Limbaugh – who called his followers “ditto heads” – espoused an unflinchingly populist brand of conservatism during a daily show broadcast on more than 600 radio stations across the US.