Although widely anticipated, the announcement of Rush Limbaugh‘s death on Wednesday sent immediate ripples through conservative media.
“He was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent, and people whether they loved him or not, they respected him, they really did,” said former president Donald Trump during a call-in interview with Fox News.
Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, broke the bad news at the start of his regular noontime radio broadcast, which was followed by Ray Charles’s rendition of “America the Beautiful” and a series of clips commemorating the influential trailblazer.
“I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone right now welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting,” she said.
“For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show,” she continued. “It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer.”
Although the controversial commentator was often vilified by the Left—with Wednesday being no exception—his wife offered a very different picture of a man who spread love both in his personal life and to his millions of loyal listeners.
“As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult. Even more so when that loved one is larger than life,” she said.
“… Rush was an extraordinary man,” she continued. “A gentle giant. Brilliant, quick-witted, genuinely kind, extremely generous, passionate, courageous, and the hardest-working person I know.”
After the news broke, Limbaugh, who was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, in 1951, was quickly honored by one of his home state’s senators, Josh Hawley, R-Mo.
“A proud son of Missouri, Rush Limbaugh was a voice for the voiceless,” Hawley wrote in a statement.
“He changed talk radio, but more importantly, Rush changed the conversation to speak up for the forgotten, and challenge the establishment,” Hawley continued. “He lived the First Amendment and told hard truths that made the elite uncomfortable, but made sure working men and women had a seat at the table.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another of the Senate’s most dedicated conservative leaders, offered a quick tribute via Twitter.
Rest in peace to the tireless voice for freedom and the conservative movement Rush Limbaugh.
I’m praying for the entire Limbaugh family.
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) February 17, 2021
And baseball great Aubrey Huff called him a “hero” and a “legend.”
Hero’s get remembered….but legends never die. Rest In Peace Rush Limbaugh.
— Aubrey Huff (@aubrey_huff) February 17, 2021
Meanwhile, one of Limbaugh’s fellow conservative radio hosts, Sean Hannity, honored the media pioneer who paved the way for his own success by using a baseball analogy.
“You can never replace Babe Ruth, but I’d even take it a step further, [Limbaugh] was Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hank Aaron, Derek Jeter, and everyone in-between,” Hannity said, according to Fox News.
Mark Levin—another conservative thought-leader who, like Hannity, used his radio success to springboard to a successful Fox News hosting gig—said Limbaugh had “made it cool to be a patriot” while reflecting on their 25-year friendship.
“I just want him to be remembered the way he should be remembered: a tremendous patriot of this country who refused to accept the attacks that came against this country from within,” Levin said.
Limbaugh “refused to accept the ideological changes in this country,” Levin continued. “He defended the traditions of this country, and he spoke for tens of millions of us and, you know, I’ve met a lot of smart people in my life, dealt with a lot of smart people, never smarter than Rush, never wiser, and never kinder.”
Former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also paid tribute on Twitter with a series of tweets.
1/3 Rush Limbaugh had unrelenting boldness to proclaim the truth. Watching his wit, passion, and willingness to hold the media accountable informed my entire career.
Growing up in Plant City, Florida, my dad would always play the Rush Limbaugh program in his pick-up truck…
— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) February 17, 2021
McEnany recalled growing up listening to Limbaugh in her father’s pickup truck in her Florida hometown.
Limbaugh was one of the first of many conservative thought-leaders to migrate to Florida during the early 1990s.
The governor of the state, Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., a likely future presidential candidate, honored Limbaugh using the acronym for “greatest of all time.”
“Rush is the GOAT of radio, of conservative media and of inspiring a loyal army of American patriots,” DeSantis wrote in a statement, according to Fox News.
“We don’t know who will succeed Rush as America’s anchorman, but we do know that nobody will ever replace him,” DeSantis added.
With Trump’s decision to declare his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago—only miles from Limbaugh’s residence—as his permanent address, the state has increasingly become the gravitational center of the American conservative movement.
Limbaugh’s relationship to Trump continued to be one of mutual respect and admiration, even though neither of the sardonic Republican leaders was afraid to burn bridges when taking on the tepid GOP establishment.
He conceded in a 2018 interview that the then-president was rude but that, like Limbaugh, Trump was “fearless and willing to fight against the things that no Republican has been willing to fight against.”
Limbaugh occasionally hit the campaign trail for Trump and was, in turn, bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a surprise moment at the 2020 State of the Union Address, only days after he publicly announced his diagnosis with state IV terminal lung cancer.
Trump, at the time, thanked Limbaugh for “all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity.”
On Wednesday, Trump said he had spoken with Limbaugh a few days ago and was aware at the time that he was very sick.
He praised Limbaugh’s determination to push through to the very end as a leading voice in the conservative movement.
“He in theory could have been gone four months ago, he was fighting till the very end, just a great fighter,” Trump said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s new office released a formal statement:
“The great Rush Limbaugh has passed away to a better place, free from physical pain and hostility. His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced. 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 the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves. Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly.”