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Conservative radio show host, Palm Beach resident Rush Limbaugh dies at 70

Longtime radio personality diagnosed with lung cancer last year
Rush Limbaugh, behind Palm Beach home backdrop on day of his death, Feb. 17, 2021
Posted at 12:28 PM, Feb 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-17 18:22:22-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, whose broadcast originated from his home studio in Palm Beach, has died of complications from lung cancer. He was 70 years old.

His wife made the announcement Wednesday on Limbaugh's radio show.

"Losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life," Kathryn Adams Limbaugh said. "Rush will forever be the greatest of all time."

Those very words -- "the greatest of all time" -- were inscribed in a post on Limbaugh's radio show website.

President George Bush on set of Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 1992
President George Bush talks with conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh at WABC studios in New York City in September 1992.

Limbaugh had been absent from his show for the last two weeks while he was undergoing treatment.

He was first diagnosed with cancer in January 2020.

With his three-hour weekday radio show broadcast on nearly 600 stations across the U.S. and a massive audience of millions hanging on his every word, Limbaugh's rants shaped the national political conversation, swaying the opinions of average Republicans and the direction of the party.

Rush Limbaugh on set of 'Meet the Press' in 1993
Radio host Rush Limbaugh is pictured on the set of the NBC public affairs television show "Meet The Press" in March 1993.

In October, Limbaugh told listeners of his show that there had been "some progression" in his cancer diagnosis. He said it's "not dramatic, but it is the wrong direction."

Former President Donald Trump awarded Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, during his State of the Union Address last year.

Trump told Fox News "it was a great honor" to present Limbaugh with the medal.

"Half the room went crazy and the other half of the room, they knew he should get it," Trump said Wednesday after learning of Limbaugh's death. "But it was special and he was special."

Rush Limbaugh during President Donald Trump's State of the Union, February 2020
Rush Limbaugh reacts as first Lady Melania Trump and his wife Kathryn applaud as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020.

Trump said he last spoke with Limbaugh "three or four days ago."

"His fight was very, very courageous," Trump said. "He was very, very sick."

Trump called Limbaugh "very brave."

"He was fighting to the very end," Trump said. "He was a fighter."

"The Rush Limbaugh Show" was first nationally syndicated in 1988. The show began at WABC in New York City and carried on after Limbaugh left for South Florida.

Limbaugh moved to Palm Beach in 1996, joining the migration that attracted other fiery conservative personalities like Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who died there in 2017, and, arguably Palm Beach's most famous resident, Trump.

Rush Limbaugh and Donald Trump in West Palm Beach in 2019
President Donald Trump shakes hands with radio personality Rush Limbaugh as he takes the stage at the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Gay Gaines, a friend and fellow Palm Beach resident, told the New York Times in 2011 that Limbaugh fell in love with the town after visiting her during Memorial Day weekend in 1995.

Limbaugh resigned from his short-lived stint as co-host of ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" show in 2013 after his controversial comments about then-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

During the NFL pregame show, Limbaugh claimed that McNabb, who is Black, wasn't as good as the media perceived him to be, leading to much backlash and criticism.

"I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL," Limbaugh said at the time. "The media has been very desirous that a Black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

Three days later, Limbaugh resigned, saying he did "not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on" the show.

Rush Limbaugh and Donovan McNabb, 2003 controversy
Rush Limbaugh resigned as co-host of ESPN's "NFL Sunday Countdown" in 2003 after his remarks about then-Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Limbaugh's remarks also derailed a 2009 bid to become one of the owners of the NFL's St. Louis Rams.

In 2003, Limbaugh admitted to being addicted to prescription painkillers, a habit he claimed stemmed from undergoing spinal surgery a few years earlier.

The result was a three-year criminal investigation that led to his 2006 arrest in Palm Beach County on a warrant charging him with "doctor shopping."

Limbaugh solicited the help of prominent South Florida attorney Roy Black, who famously represented William Kennedy Smith during his 1991 rape trial, which resulted in an acquittal.

Roy Black takes questions from media about Rush Limbaugh in 1996
Roy Black, attorney for Rush Limbaugh, listens to a question during a news conference Friday, April 28, 2006, in West Palm Beach, Fla. Limbaugh and prosecutors in the long-running painkiller fraud case against him reached a deal calling for the only charge against the conservative commentator to be dropped if he continues treatment.

Ultimately, Limbaugh agreed to a plea deal in which prosecutors agreed to drop the charge if he continued with drug treatment and paid $30,000 toward the cost of the investigation.

Kathryn Adams Limbaugh called her husband an "irreplaceable, remarkable talent." She praised his listeners, saying he "loved you and he loved this radio program with every part of his being."