Rush Limbaugh

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh
Born Rush Hudson Limbaugh III
January 12, 1951 (1951-01-12) (age 60)
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, U.S.
Alma mater Southeast Missouri State University (did not graduate)
Occupation Radio host, political commentator, author, television host (former)
Years active 1967–present
Spouse Roxy Maxine McNeely (1977–1980, div.)
Michelle Sixta (1983–1990, div.)
Marta Fitzgerald (1994–2004, div.)
Kathryn Rogers (2010–pres)

Rush Hudson Limbaugh III (play /ˈlɪmbɔː/; born January 12, 1951) is an American radio talk show host, conservative political commentator, and an opinion leader in American conservatism. He hosts The Rush Limbaugh Show which is aired throughout the U.S. on Premiere Radio Networks and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States. Limbaugh signed an 8-year, $400 million contract extension with Clear Channel in 2008.[1]

He was born into a family with a long history of involvement in Republican politics and first began working at a local radio station at age sixteen. In 1984, after a series of radio related jobs, Limbaugh began working as a radio talk show host in Sacramento, California at radio station KFBK, which still airs his syndicated program. His unique program featured no guests, relying exclusively on his conservative political analysis for content. He moved to New York City in 1988 where he began the national broadcast of his program on WABC radio. His program grew in popularity and he began his rise to national fame.

In the 1990s, Limbaugh’s fame grew beyond radio, into publishing and television. He became a bestselling author with his books The Way Things Ought to Be (1992) and See, I Told You So (1993). From 1992 to 1996, Limbaugh hosted a half-hour television talk show. Limbaugh criticizes liberal policies and politicians and promotes positions viewed as conservative. He frequently accuses the American mainstream media of having a strong liberal bias.


Early life

Family and background

Rush Hudson Limbaugh III was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the son of Mildred Carolyn "Millie" (née Armstrong) and Rush Hudson Limbaugh, Jr. His father was a lawyer and a U.S. fighter pilot who served in the China Burma India Theater of World War II. His mother was a native of Searcy, Arkansas. The name "Rush" was originally chosen for his grandfather to honor the maiden name of family member Edna Rush.[2]

His family has many lawyers, including his grandfather, father and brother David. His uncle, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. is a Ronald Reagan-appointed federal judge in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. His cousin, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr., is currently a judge in the same court, appointed by George W. Bush. Rush Limbaugh, Sr., Limbaugh's grandfather, was a Missouri prosecutor, judge, special commissioner, member of the Missouri House of Representatives from 1930 until 1932, and longtime president of the Missouri Historical Society.[3] The Federal Courthouse in Cape Girardeau is named for Limbaugh's grandfather.

Education and Vietnam draft

Limbaugh began his career in radio as a teenager in 1967 in his hometown of Cape Girardeau, using the name Rusty Sharpe.[2][4] Limbaugh graduated from Cape Girardeau, Missouri Central High School, in 1969. Because of his parents' desire to see him attend college, he enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University but left the school after two semesters and one summer. According to his mother, "he flunked everything", and "he just didn't seem interested in anything except radio."[2][5]

Limbaugh was not drafted during the Vietnam War draft lottery, as his birth date's high rank (152) was well above the 125 rank below which service members were drafted. He was classified as "1-Y" (later reclassified "4-F") due to a Pilonidal cyst.[2][6]

Professional career


After dropping out of college, Limbaugh moved to McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In 1972, he became a Top 40 music disc jockey on WIXZ, a small AM radio station that reached much of the Pittsburgh area. He started with an afternoon show and later did mornings, broadcasting under the name "Jeff Christie". Limbaugh moved to Pittsburgh station KQV in 1973 as the evening disc jockey, succeeding Jim Quinn. He was fired in late-1974, when the station was sold to Taft Broadcasting. Limbaugh was reportedly told by management that he would never make it as on air talent, and should consider going into sales.[2] Unable to find another job in local radio, Limbaugh moved back home to Cape Girardeau. He became a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers from his time in the region.[7]

For the rest of the decade Limbaugh took jobs at several radio stations, working in music radio, before settling in Kansas City. In 1979, he left radio and accepted a position as director of promotions with the Kansas City Royals baseball team.[2] There he developed a close friendship with now retired Kansas City Royals star George Brett; the two remain close friends.[8]


In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California, where he replaced Morton Downey, Jr.[2] The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine—which had required that stations provide free air time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast—by the FCC in 1987 meant stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views. Daniel Henninger wrote, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) in 1987 ... and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination."[9]

On August 1, 1988, after achieving success in Sacramento and drawing the attention of former ABC Radio President Edward F. McLaughlin, Limbaugh moved to New York City and began his national radio show. He debuted just weeks after the Democratic National Convention, and just weeks before the Republican National Convention. Limbaugh's radio home in New York City was the talk-format station WABC, 770 AM, and this remains his flagship station (although Limbaugh now hosts his program from West Palm Beach, Florida).[2]


In December 1990, journalist Lewis Grossberger wrote in the New York Times that Limbaugh had "more listeners than any other talk show host" and described Limbaugh's style as "bouncing between earnest lecturer and political vaudevillian".[10] Limbaugh's rising popularity coincided with the Persian Gulf War, and his support for the war effort and his relentless ridicule of peace activists. The program gained more popularity and was moved to stations with larger audiences, eventually being broadcast on over 650 radio stations nationwide.

In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States. Limbaugh satirized the policies of Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as those of the Democratic Party. When the Republican Party won control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, the freshman Republican class awarded Limbaugh an honorary membership in their caucus. This event confirmed him as an influential figure on the national political scene.[11]


Limbaugh had publicized personal difficulties in the 2000s. In late 2001, he acknowledged that he had gone almost completely deaf, although he continued his show. He was able to regain much of his hearing with the help of cochlear implants.

In 2003, Limbaugh had a brief stint as a pro football commentator with ESPN. He resigned a few weeks into the 2003 NFL season after making comments about the press coverage for quarterback Donovan McNabb that caused a lot of controversy and accusations of racism on the part of Limbaugh. His comment was: "I don't think [McNabb's] been that good from the get-go. I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. I think the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. They're interested in black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. I think there's a little hope invested in McNabb and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he really didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."[12] For example, a sportswriter construed the comment as racist against himself and other sportswriters.[13] Another sports analyst wrote Limbaugh's viewpoint was shared by "many football fans and analysts" and "it is ...absurd to say that the sports media haven't overrated Donovan McNabb because he's black."[14]

In April 2006, Limbaugh turned himself in and was arrested "on a single charge of prescription fraud".[15] His record was later expunged after 18 months of rehabilitation and paying court costs.

The Rush Limbaugh Show

Limbaugh's radio show airs for three hours each weekday beginning at noon Eastern Standard Time on both AM and FM radio. The program is also broadcast worldwide on the Armed Forces Radio Network.

Radio broadcasting shifted from AM to FM in the late 1970s because of the opportunity to broadcast music in stereo with better fidelity. Limbaugh's show was first nationally syndicated in August 1988, in a later stage of AM's decline. Limbaugh's popularity paved the way for other conservative talk radio programming to become commonplace on the AM radio. In March 2006, WBAL in Baltimore, MD became the first major market radio station in the country to drop Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio program.[16] In 2007, Talkers magazine again named him #1 in its "Heavy Hundred" most important talk show hosts.

Limbaugh frequently mentions the EIB (Excellence In Broadcasting) network, but this is a mythic construction, as he told the New York Times in 1990.[17] In reality, his show was co-owned and first syndicated by Edward F. McLaughlin, former president of ABC who founded EFM Media in 1988, with Limbaugh's show as his first product. In 1997, McLaughlin sold EFM to Jacor Communications, which was ultimately bought up by Clear Channel Communications. Today, Limbaugh owns a majority of the show, which is syndicated by the Premiere Radio Networks.

According to a 2001 article in U.S. News & World Report, Limbaugh had an eight-year contract, at the rate of $31.25 million a year.[18] In 2007, Limbaugh earned $33 million.[19] On July 2, 2008, Matt Drudge reported that Limbaugh signed a contract extension through 2016 that is worth over $400 million, breaking records for any broadcast.[20] A November 2008 poll by Zogby International found that Rush Limbaugh was the most trusted news personality in the nation, garnering 12.5% of poll responses.[21]

Television show

Limbaugh had a syndicated half-hour television show from 1992 through 1996, produced by Roger Ailes. The show discussed many of the topics on his radio show, and was taped in front of an audience. Rush Limbaugh says he loves doing his radio show[22] but not a TV show.[23]

Other media appearances

Limbaugh's first television hosting experience came March 30, 1990, as a guest host on Pat Sajak's CBS late-night talk show, The Pat Sajak Show.[24] ACT UP activists in the audience[25] heckled Limbaugh repeatedly; ultimately the entire studio audience was cleared. In 2001, Sajak said the incident was "legendary around CBS".[26]

On December 17, 1993, Limbaugh appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman.[27] Limbaugh also guest-starred (as himself) on a 1994 episode of Hearts Afire. He appeared in the 1995 Billy Crystal film Forget Paris, and in 1998 on an episode of The Drew Carey Show.

Recent events

In 2007, Limbaugh made cameo appearances on Fox News Channel's short-lived The 1/2 Hour News Hour in a series of parodies portraying him as the future President of the United States. In the parodies, his vice president was fellow conservative pundit Ann Coulter. He also made a cameo in the Family Guy episode "Blue Harvest" that year. In the episode, a parody of Star Wars, Limbaugh can be heard on the radio claiming that, among other things, the "intergalactic liberal space media" was lying about climate change on the planet Hoth, and that Lando Calrissian's administrative position on Cloud City was a result of affirmative action. He also appeared in the 2010 Family Guy episode "Excellence in Broadcasting", once again as himself, and in the 2011 episode "It's a Trap!" (which parodied Return of the Jedi) as the Rancor.

His persona has often been utilized as a template for a stereotypical conservative talk show host on TV shows and in movies, including an episode of The Simpsons (as a conservative talk radio host named Birch Barlow), as "Gus Baker" on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head, as "Lash Rambo" (host of "Perfection in Broadcasting") on an episode of The New WKRP in Cincinnati, and as "Fielding Chase" in the Columbo spinoff film Butterfly in Shades of Grey.

As a result of his television program, Limbaugh became known for wearing distinctive neckties. In response to viewer interest, Limbaugh launched a series of ties[28] designed primarily by his then-wife Marta.[29] Sales of the ties reached over US$5 million in their initial sales year, but were later discontinued.

In January 2010, Chicago's Second City announced a new production, Rush Limbaugh: The Musical, a musical parody-pastiche following in the footsteps of 2009's successful run of Rod Blagojevich Superstar, which has been written and developed by the same creative team.

On January 30, 2010, Limbaugh was a judge for the 2010 Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.[30] In early 2011, Limbaugh was the subject of the third season of Golf Channel's The Haney Project, in which instructor Hank Haney coached him in eight episodes.[31]


Defining the conservative movement

Limbaugh wrote in an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal in 2005:

  • I love being a conservative. We conservatives are proud of our philosophy. Unlike our liberal friends, who are constantly looking for new words to conceal their true beliefs and are in a perpetual state of reinvention, we conservatives are unapologetic about our ideals.
  • We are confident in our principles and energetic about openly advancing them. We believe in individual liberty, limited government, capitalism, the rule of law, faith, a color-blind society and national security.
  • We support school choice, enterprise zones, tax cuts, welfare reform, faith-based initiatives, political speech, homeowner rights and the War on Terrorism.
  • And at our core we embrace and celebrate the most magnificent governing document ever ratified by any nation — the U.S. Constitution. Along with the Declaration of Independence, which recognizes our God-given natural right to be free, it is the foundation on which our government is built and has enabled us to flourish as a people.
  • We conservatives are never stronger than when we are advancing our principles.[32]

Balance and point of view

In his first New York Times best seller, Limbaugh describes himself as conservative, and is critical of broadcasters in many media outlets for claiming to be objective. He has criticized political centrists, independents, and moderate conservatives, claiming they are responsible for Democrat Barack Obama's victory over Republican John McCain in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election and inviting them to leave the Republican party. He calls for the adoption of core conservative philosophies in order to ensure the survival of the Republican party.[33][34][35]

Limbaugh is critical of environmentalism and climate science.[36] He has disputed claims of anthropogenic global warming, and the relationship between CFCs and depletion of the ozone layer, saying the scientific evidence does not support them.[37] Limbaugh has argued against the scientific opinion on climate change saying the alleged scientific consensus "is just a bunch of scientists organized around a political proposition. You can't have consensus in science ... they think consensus is the way to sell it because, 'Oh, but all these wonderful people agree.'"[38] Limbaugh has used the term "environmentalist wacko" when referring to left-leaning environmental advocates.[39] As a rhetorical device, he has also used the term to refer to more mainstream climate scientists and other environmental scientists and advocates with whom he disagrees.[40]

Limbaugh's views on immigration have changed over the years. In the 1990s, in response to NAFTA, he was supportive of allowing legal immigration from Mexico: "Let the unskilled jobs, let the kinds of jobs that take absolutely no knowledge whatsoever to do - let stupid and unskilled Mexicans do that work."[41] However, he has always taken a hard-line stance on illegal immigration.[42]

Limbaugh is critical of feminism, saying that "Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society."[43] He also popularized the term "feminazi", referring to about two dozen feminists "to whom the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur."[44] He credited his friend Tom Hazlett, a professor of law and economics at George Mason University, with coining the term.[45]

Limbaugh supports capital punishment, saying "the only thing cruel about the death penalty is last-minute stays."[37]

On the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal, Limbaugh said, "This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... And we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day [referring to the U.S. Military service members]. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release?"[46][47]

Limbaugh has asserted that African-Americans, in contrast with other minority groups, are "left behind" socially because they have been systematically trained from a young age to hate America through a widespread movement headed by figures such as Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, and Barack and Michelle Obama.[48]

James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times quoted Limbaugh as saying after the 2008 election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States that the Democrats will "take your 401(k), put it in the Social Security Trust Fund."[49]

Entertainment props

Limbaugh utilizes props to introduce his monologues on various topics. On his radio show, news about the homeless has often been preceded with the Clarence "Frogman" Henry song "Ain't Got No Home."[50] For a time, Dionne Warwick's song "I Know I'll Never Love This Way Again" preceded reports about people with AIDS.[51] These later became "condom updates" preceded by Fifth Dimension's song, "Up, Up and Away (in My Beautiful Balloon)."[50] For two weeks in 1989, on his Sacramento radio show, Limbaugh performed "caller abortions" where he would end a call suddenly to the sounds of a vacuum cleaner and a scream. He would then deny that he had "hung up" on the caller, which he had promised not to do. Limbaugh claims that he used this gag to illustrate "the tragedy of abortion" as well as to highlight the question of whether abortion constitutes murder.[52] During the Clinton administration, while filming his television program, Limbaugh referred to media coverage of Socks, the Clintons' cat. He then stated, "But did you know there is also a White House dog?" and a picture of Chelsea Clinton was shown. When questioned about it, Limbaugh claimed that it was an accident and that without his permission some technician had put up the picture of Chelsea.[53][54][55][56][57][58]

Claims of inaccuracy

Some groups and individuals have criticized Limbaugh's accuracy. The July/August 1994 issue of Extra!, a publication of the progressive group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), alleges 50 different inaccuracies and distortions in Limbaugh's commentary.[59][60] Others have since joined FAIR in questioning Limbaugh's facts. Al Franken, a former comedian and current Democratic Senator of Minnesota, wrote a satirical book (Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations) in which he accused Limbaugh of distorting facts to serve his own political biases.[61]

Limbaugh has been criticized for inaccuracies by the Environmental Defense Fund. A defense fund report authored by Princeton University endowed geoscience professor Michael Oppenheimer and professor of biology David Wilcove lists 14 significant scientific facts which, the authors allege, Limbaugh misrepresented in his book The Way Things Ought to Be.[62] The authors conclude that "Rush Limbaugh ... allows his political bias to distort the truth about a whole range of important scientific issues."

On October 14, 2011 Limbaugh questioned the U.S. move against the LRA on the grounds that "Lord's Resistance Army are Christians. They are fighting the Muslims in Sudan. And Obama has sent troops, United States troops to remove them from the battlefield, which means kill them." "So that’s a new war, a hundred troops to wipe out Christians in Sudan, Uganda." Later, Limbaugh stated that he would research the group as he was made aware of accusations of their atrocities, including kidnapping whole schools for use as child soldiers.[63][64] Contrary to this assertion, however, he later allowed the show's written transcript to be posted on his website under the title "Obama Invades Uganda, Targets Christians".[64][65][66]

Charitable work

Leukemia and lymphoma telethon

Limbaugh holds an annual fundraising telethon called the "EIB Cure-a-Thon"[67] for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.[68] In 2006, the EIB Cure-a-Thon conducted its 16th annual telethon, raising $1.7 million,[69] totaling over $15 million since the first cure-a-thon.[70] According to Leukemia and Lymphoma Society annual reports, Limbaugh personally contributed between $100,000 and $499,999 from 2000–2005 and 2007,[71] and Limbaugh claims to have contributed around $250,000 in 2003, 2004 and 2005.[72] NewsMax reported Limbaugh donated $250,000 in 2006,[73] and the Society's 2006 annual report placed him in the $500,000 to $999,999 category.[71] Limbaugh donated $320,000 during the 2007 Cure-a-Thon[74] which the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society reported had raised $3.1 million.[75] On his radio program April 18, 2008, Limbaugh claimed to pledge $400,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society after being challenged by two listeners to increase his initial pledge of $300,000.[76]

Rush 24/7 Adopt-A-Soldier Program

Limbaugh's website maintains a page where US soldiers can register for a free subscription to Limbaugh's online premium service, Rush 24/7, through memberships purchased by donors who buy a subscription (at a reduced price) as a gift.[77]

Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation

Limbaugh conducts an annual drive to help the Marine Corps–Law Enforcement Foundation collect contributions to provide scholarships for children of Marines and law enforcement officers/agents who have died in the line of duty.[78][79] The foundation was the beneficiary of a record $2.1 million eBay auction in October 2007 after Limbaugh listed for sale a letter critical of him signed by 41 Democratic senators and pledged to match the selling price.[80] With the recent founding of his and his wife's company "Two if by Tea", they have pledged to donate at least $100,000 to the MC-LEF beginning in June, 2011.[81]

Personal life

Limbaugh has been married four times and has no children.[82] He was first married at the age of 26 to Roxy Maxine McNeely, a sales secretary at radio station WHB in Kansas City, Missouri. They were married at the Centenary United Methodist Church in Limbaugh's hometown of Cape Girardeau, Missouri on September 24, 1977. McNeely filed for divorce in March 1980, citing "incompatibility." They were formally divorced on July 10, 1980.[2]

In 1983, Limbaugh married Michelle Sixta, a college student and usherette at the Kansas City Royals Stadium Club. They were divorced in 1990, and she remarried the following year.[2]

On May 27, 1994, Limbaugh married Marta Fitzgerald, a 35-year-old aerobics instructor whom he met on the online service CompuServe in 1990.[83] They were married at the house of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who officiated.[84] They were separated on June 11, 2004.[85] Limbaugh announced on the air, "Marta has consented to my request for a divorce, and we have mutually agreed to seek an amicable separation." The divorce was finalized in December 2004.[86] In September 2004, Limbaugh became romantically involved with then-TV personality Daryn Kagan, and they broke up in February 2006.[87]

He dated Kathryn Rogers, a party planner from Florida, for three years[88] before he married her on June 5, 2010.[89][90] During the wedding reception after the ceremony, Elton John entertained the wedding guests for a reported $1 million fee; however, Limbaugh himself denied that the $1 million figure was accurate on his September 7, 2010 radio show.[91][92]

Through a holding company, KARHL Holdings (KARHL meaning "Kathryn and Rush Hudson Limbaugh"), Limbaugh launched a line of bottled iced tea beverages, entitled "Two if by Tea" after a line from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride."[93]

Prescription drug addiction

Mugshot of Rush Limbaugh taken on April 28, 2006.

On October 3, 2003 the National Enquirer reported that Limbaugh was being investigated for illegally obtaining the prescription drugs oxycodone and hydrocodone. Other news outlets quickly confirmed the investigation.[94] He admitted to listeners on his radio show on October 10, 2003 that he was addicted to prescription painkillers and stated that he would enter inpatient treatment for 30 days, immediately after the broadcast.[95] Limbaugh stated his addiction to painkillers resulted from several years of severe back pain heightened by a botched surgery intended to correct those problems.

A subsequent investigation into whether Limbaugh had violated Florida's doctor shopping laws was launched by the Palm Beach State Attorney, which raised privacy issues when investigators seized Limbaugh's private medical records looking for evidence of crimes. On November 9, 2005, following two years of investigations, Assistant State Attorney James L. Martz requested the court to set aside Limbaugh's doctor–patient confidentiality rights and allow the state to question his physicians, stating it was necessary because "I have no idea if Mr. Limbaugh has completed the elements of any offense yet."[96] Limbaugh's attorney opposed the prosecutor's efforts to interview his doctors on the basis of patient privacy rights, and argued that the prosecutor had violated Limbaugh's Fourth Amendment rights by illegally seizing his medical records. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement in agreement and filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Limbaugh.[97][98] On December 12, 2005, Judge David F. Crow delivered a ruling prohibiting the State of Florida from questioning Limbaugh's physicians about "the medical condition of the patient and any information disclosed to the health care practitioner by the patient in the course of the care and treatment of the patient."[99]

On April 28, 2006 a warrant was issued for his arrest on the charge of doctor shopping. According to Teri Barbera, spokeswoman for the Sheriff, during his arrest, Limbaugh was booked, photographed, and fingerprinted, but not handcuffed. He was then released after about an hour on $3,000 bail.[100][101][102] After his surrender, he filed a "not guilty" plea to the charge. Prosecutors agreed to drop the charge if Limbaugh paid $30,000 to defray the cost of the investigation and completed an 18-month therapy regimen with his physician.[103]

Limbaugh asserted that the state's settlement agreement resulted from a lack of evidence supporting the charge of doctor shopping. Under the terms of the agreement, Limbaugh may not own a firearm for eighteen months and must continue to submit to random drug testing, which he acknowledges having undergone since 2003.[104]

Before his addiction became known, Limbaugh had condemned illegal drug use on his television program, stating that "Drug use, some might say, is destroying this country. And we have laws against selling drugs, pushing drugs, using drugs, importing drugs. ... And so if people are violating the law by doing drugs, they ought to be accused and they ought to be convicted and they ought to be sent up."[105][106]

Roy Black, one of Limbaugh's attorneys, stated that "Rush Limbaugh was singled out for prosecution because of who he is. We believe the state attorney's office is applying a double standard."[107]

In June 2006, Limbaugh was detained by drug enforcement agents at Palm Beach International Airport. Customs officials confiscated Viagra from Limbaugh's luggage as he was returning from the Dominican Republic. The prescription was not in Limbaugh's name.[108]

After he was released with no charges filed, Limbaugh joked about the incident on his radio show, claiming that he got the Viagra at the Clinton Library and was told they were blue M&M's. He also stated that "I had a great time in the Dominican Republic. Wish I could tell you about it."[108]

Cigar aficionado

In the early 1990s, when the cigar boom was gaining momentum, Limbaugh was seen frequently with a cigar in hand and by the end of the 1990s, cigars had become Limbaugh's staple in many public appearances. Often starting segments of his show with the phrase, "Amid billowing clouds of fragrant and aromatic first, second, and sometimes third hand premium cigar smoke" as well as mentioning a story print-out in his "formerly nicotine-stained fingers", cigars became a common topic of discussion. In the spring of 1994, Limbaugh appeared on the cover of the magazine Cigar Aficionado and shared the story of his conversion to cigars. He has since been a frequent participant in many events such as "The Big Smoke", hosted throughout the year by the magazine. Limbaugh has participated in many charity cigar auctions hosted by the magazine, and is known to talk frequently with his listeners about his and their cigar interests, preferences and recommendations. "I think cigars are just a tremendous addition to the enjoyment of life."[109] He is also frequently seen in his studio smoking a cigar during his show.


Rush Limbaugh has described himself as being "100%, totally deaf".[110] In 2001, he was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune inner ear disease (AIED), which, in the span of three months, rendered his right ear completely deaf and left ear severely deaf. "I cannot hear television. I cannot hear music. I am, for all practical purposes, deaf – and it's happened in three months."[111] On December 19, 2001, doctors at the House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles were able to successfully restore a measure of his hearing through a surgical procedure known as a cochlear implant surgery. Limbaugh received a Clarion CII Bionic Ear.[112] In 2005, Limbaugh was forced to undergo "tuning" due to an "eye twitch", an apparent side-effect of cochlear implants.[113]

Hospitalization for chest pains

On December 30, 2009, while vacationing in Honolulu, Hawaii, Limbaugh was transported to Queen's Medical Center where he was admitted in serious condition with intense chest pains. Testing revealed nothing specific and his doctors attributed the pain to angina pectoris, which is an obstruction or spasm of the coronary arteries.[114]


Armed Forces Radio

On May 26, 2004, the article "Rush's Forced Conscripts" appeared on the online news and opinion magazine[115] The article discussed the controversy surrounding the fact that American Forces Radio and Television Service (AFRTS), (which describes itself as "[providing] stateside radio and television programming, 'a touch of home', to U.S. service men and women, DoD civilians, and their families serving outside the continental United States"), carries the first hour of Limbaugh's show. Melvin Russell, director of AFRTS, defended Limbaugh's presence, by pointing to Limbaugh's high ratings in the US: "We look at the most popular shows broadcast here in the United States and try to mirror that. [Limbaugh] is the No. 1 talk show host in the States; there's no question about that. Because of that we provide him on our service." In addition, AFRTS produced a ballot of radio and television shows asking troops worldwide, "Who do you want that we don't at present carry?" The Rush Limbaugh Show was not listed on the ballot, but won the vote as a write-in by the troops. A later poll by Lund Media Research found that a majority of soldiers preferred that talk show programs be replaced by hip hop and rap stations, bringing into question the future of content such as the Rush Limbaugh Show on AFRTS.[116]

Critics have pointed out that other programs, such as the eight-million listener per week Howard Stern Show, are absent from AFRTS. (This statement was made before Stern left for satellite radio in 2006.) Other claims—for example, that there is no political counterbalance to Limbaugh on AFRTS—have been rebutted by Byron York, a columnist for the predominantly conservative National Review: "American military men and women abroad have access, for example, to the talk show of liberal host Diane Rehm ... Jim Hightower and CBS News anchorman Dan Rather." Another possible political counterbalance to Limbaugh is Harry Shearer, who emphasizes his presence on AFRTS at the end of every episode of his satirical Le Show.

On June 14, 2004, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to the 2004 Defense Authorization bill that called for AFRTS to fulfill its stated goal of providing political balance in its news and public affairs programming. The amendment passed unanimously in the Senate. Limbaugh responded by calling the move "censorship". On his June 17 radio show, he commented that: "This is a United States senator [Tom Harkin] amending the Defense appropriations bill with the intent being to get this program—only one hour of which is carried on Armed Forces Radio—stripped from that network." The amendment never became law. As of 2005, the first hour of Limbaugh's show is still on AFRTS. Limbaugh visited US forces in Afghanistan in 2005.

This treatment of The Rush Limbaugh Show proved to set a precedent for Congressional debate on AFRTS content. The Ed Schultz show, a liberal talk radio show with over one million listeners a week, was originally scheduled to be broadcast on AFRTS on October 17, 2005. It was subsequently pulled, with some alleging political motivation, which was later debated in Congress. A few weeks after this debate, AFRTS added Schultz to the line-up along with other talk show hosts: Al Franken and Sean Hannity.

Michael J. Fox

In October 2006, Michael J. Fox, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, was featured in a political TV ad in which he advocated funding for stem cell research. In response to the ad, Limbaugh said the following: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. ... This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting."[117] Major media outlets criticized Limbaugh for his characterization of Fox's symptoms,[117] while Fox himself remained largely silent, responding simply, "I'm kind of lucky right now. It's ironic, given some of the things that have been said in the last couple days, that my pills are working really well."[118]

"Barack the Magic Negro" parody

On March 19, 2007, Limbaugh referred to a Los Angeles Times editorial by David Ehrenstein which claimed that Barack Obama was filling the role of the "magic negro", and that this explained his appeal to voters.[119] Limbaugh then later played a song by Paul Shanklin entitled "Barack the Magic Negro,"[120] sung to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon".[121]

Phony soldiers

During the September 26, 2007, broadcast of Limbaugh's radio show, Limbaugh used the term "phony soldiers" when speaking to a caller who had brought up soldiers who criticize the war.[122][123][124][125][126] The caller, saying he was currently serving in the Army for 14 years, said, "They never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and spout to the media." Limbaugh interrupted, "The phony soldiers." The caller continued, "The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country."[127] Several minutes later, after the caller had hung up, Limbaugh read from the AP story describing the story of Jesse Macbeth. Macbeth joined the Army but did not complete basic training, yet claimed in alternative media interviews that he and his unit routinely committed war crimes in Iraq.[128][129] On June 7, 2007, Macbeth pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and was sentenced to five months in jail and three years probation.[130][131] Media Matters noted Limbaugh's use of the term "phony soldiers" in an article on their website. The article suggested that Limbaugh was saying that all soldiers who disagree with the Iraq War were "phony soldiers",[132] and was discussed in speeches by Presidential candidates John Edwards and Chris Dodd.[133] Limbaugh said that, when he had made the comment about "phony soldiers", he had been speaking only of Macbeth and others like him who claim to be soldiers and are not, and that "Media Matters takes things out of context all the time".[134] Media Matters pointed out that Limbaugh did not mention Jesse Macbeth on his September 26 radio show until one minute and 50 seconds after talking about "phony soldiers" with the caller."[135] The unedited transcript of the radio show in question can be found on Rush Limbaugh's website.[136]

Comments on Obama's policies

On January 16, 2009, Limbaugh read a letter on his radio show that he had received a request from a national print outlet: ... "If you could send us 400 words on your hope for the Obama presidency, we need it by Monday night, that would be ideal." He responded, "I don't need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails." He explained that he didn't want "absorption of as much of the private sector by the US government as possible, from the banking business, to the mortgage industry, the automobile business, to health care. I do not want the government in charge of all of these things. I don't want this to work." He continued, "What is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what's gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here."[137]

Limbaugh later said that he wants to see Obama's policies fail, not the man himself.[138] Speaking of Obama, Limbaugh said, "He's my president, he's a human being, and his ideas and policies are what count for me."[137]

"Leader of Republican Party"

Limbaugh was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference; his speech attracted widespread attention.[139] On March 1, 2009, CBS's Face the Nation asked White House Chief Of Staff Rahm Emanuel who he thought represented the Republican Party; Emanuel named Limbaugh as his choice.[140][141][142]

In remarks aired by CNN on March 1, 2009, Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele said that Limbaugh is "an entertainer" and his rhetoric at the convention was "incendiary" and "ugly".[143] Steele later telephoned Limbaugh and apologized. Limbaugh stated he would not want to run the RNC in its "sad sack state".[144]

On March 2, 2009, Limbaugh responded to Emanuel,[144] and on March 4, 2009, Limbaugh challenged President Barack Obama to a debate on his radio program. Limbaugh offered to pay all of Obama's expenses including travel, food, lodging, and security.[145] On March 6, Limbaugh told Byron York of the Washington Examiner that his ratings for his radio show had significantly increased since he had begun criticizing the Obama Administration.[146]

NFL team ownership bid

On October 6, 2009, Limbaugh announced that he was planning on bidding to buy the St. Louis Rams of the National Football League along with current owner of the NHL's St. Louis Blues, Dave Checketts. This was met with opposition by some players, and team owners.[147] NFL Players executive director DeMaurice Smith stated in his opposition that he had "spoken to the Commissioner [Roger Goodell] and [he understood] that this ownership consideration is in the early stages. But sport in America is at its best when it unifies, gives all of us reason to cheer, and when it transcends. Our sport does exactly that when it overcomes division and rejects discrimination and hatred."[148] Limbaugh was eventually dropped from the group that was putting in the bid due to the distraction that came from his consideration.[149]

Awards and recognition

A month after Bill Clinton's defeat of George H.W. Bush in 1992, Ronald Reagan sent Limbaugh a letter in which he thanked him "for all you're doing to promote Republican and conservative principles ... [and] you have become the Number One voice for conservatism in our Country."[150]

Limbaugh was the 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2005 recipient of the Marconi Radio Award for Syndicated Radio Personality of the Year (given by the National Association of Broadcasters), joining the syndicated Bob & Tom Show as the only other four-time winners of a Marconi award. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1993.

In 2002, Talkers Magazine ranked him as the greatest radio talk show host of all time.[151] Limbaugh is the highest-paid syndicated radio host.[152]

On March 29, 2007, Limbaugh was awarded the inaugural William F. Buckley, Jr. Award for Media Excellence, by the Media Research Center, a conservative media analysis group.[153]

On January 5, 2008, the conservative magazine Human Events announced Limbaugh as their 2007 Man of the Year.[154]

On December 1, 2008, TV Guide reported that Limbaugh was selected as one of America’s top ten most fascinating people of 2008 for a Barbara Walters ABC special that aired on December 4, 2008.[155]

On February 28, 2009, following his self-described "first address to the Nation" lasting 90 minutes, carried live on CNN and Fox News and recorded for C-SPAN, Limbaugh received CPAC's "Defender of the Constitution Award", a document originally signed by Benjamin Franklin, given to someone "who has stood up for the First Amendment ... Rush Limbaugh is for America, exactly what Benjamin Franklin did for the Founding Fathers ... the only way we will be successful is if we listen to Rush Limbaugh".[156]

Zev Chafets, whose book Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One was published May 25, 2010, wrote after the first primaries of the 2010 U.S. election season that Limbaugh was "the brains and the spirit behind" the Republican Party's "resurgence" in the wake of the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. In the May, 2010 New York Times op-ed column, Chafets pointed among others to Sen. Arlen Specter's defeat, after being labeled by Limbaugh "Republican in Name Only," and to Sarah Palin, whose "biggest current applause line — Republicans are not just the party of no, but the party of hell no — came courtesy of Mr. Limbaugh." More generally, Chafets wrote, Limbaugh has argued the party-of-no Ronald Reagan conservative course for the Republicans vigorously, notably since six weeks after the Obama inauguration, and has been fundamental to, and encouraging to, the more prominently noted Tea Party movement.[157]


In 1992, Limbaugh published his first book, The Way Things Ought To Be, followed by See, I Told You So in 1993.[158] Both became number one on the New York Times Best Seller list, The Way Things Ought to Be remaining there for 24 weeks.[159] Limbaugh acknowledges in the text of the first book that he taped the book and it was transcribed and edited by Wall Street Journal writer John Fund. In the second book, Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily is named as his collaborator.[160]


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Further reading

  • Arkush, Michael (1993). Rush!. New York: Avon Books, 1993. ISBN 0380775395. 
  • Chafets, Zev (2010). Rush Limbaugh: An Army of One. Sentinel. ISBN 978-1595230638. 
  • Colford, Paul D. (1995). The Rush Limbaugh Story: Talent on Loan from God an Unauthorized Biography. St. Martin's. ISBN 0312952724. 
  • Davis, J. Bradford (1994). The Rise of Rush Limbaugh Toward the Presidency. Norcross, Ga.:MacArthur Pub. Group, c1994.. ISBN 0964261901. 
  • Derych, Jim. Confessions of a Former Dittohead. Brooklyn, N.Y. : Ig Pub., c2006.. ISBN 0975251783 (pbk.). 
  • Evearitt, Daniel J. (1993). Rush Limbaugh and the Bible. Camp Hill, Pa.: Horizon House Publishers, c1993.. ISBN 0889651043. 
  • Franken, Al (1996). Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. New York: Random House. ISBN 978-0141018416. 
  • Franken, Al (2003). Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. New York: Plume. ISBN 978-0452285217. 
  • Jacobs, Donald Trent. The Bum's Rush: The Selling of Environmental Backlash : phrases and fallacies of Rush Limbaugh. Boise, Idaho : Legendary Pub., c1994.. ISBN 0-9625040-5-X. 
  • Keliher, Brian (1994). Flush rush. Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed Press, c1994.. ISBN 0898156106. 
  • Kelly, Charles M (1994). The Great Limbaugh Con: And Other Right-Wing Assaults on Common Sense. Fithian Press, 1994.. ISBN 1564741028. 
  • King, D. Howard (1994). Rush to Us. Windsor Pub., c1994.. ISBN 0786000821. 
  • Layne, Tom (2006). The Assassination of Rush Limbaugh. Red Ginger Publishing Co., Inc. ISBN 0976851504. 
  • Mahurin, Cecil (1993). A Public Rebuttal to Rush Limbaugh. Vantage Press, 1993.. ISBN 0533107660. 
  • Perkins, Ray, Jr. (1995). Logic and Mr. Limbaugh: A Dittohead's Guide to Fallacious Reasoning. Open Court Publishing. ISBN 0812692942. 
  • Rahman, Michael. Why Rush Limbaugh is Wrong, or, The Demise of Traditionalism and The Rise of Progressive Sensibility as Perceived. Mighty Pen Pub., 1995.. LCCN 95077891. 
  • Rendall, Steven, Jim Naureckas, Cohen, Jeff (1995). The Way Things Aren’t: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error : Over 100 Outrageously False and Foolish Statements from America's Most Powerful Radio and TV Commentator. Written for FAIR. New York: The New Press. ISBN 1-56584-260-X. 
  • Seib, Philip M. (1993). Rush Hour: Talk Radio, Politics, and the Rise of Rush Limbaugh. Summit Group, 1993.. ISBN 1565301005. 
  • Tucker, R. K. (1997). The Rules According to Rush : the American people vs. Rush Limbaugh. Bowling Green, Ohio : OptimAmerica ; Chapel Hill, NC : Professional Press, 1997.. ISBN 1570873399. 
  • Varon, Charles (1997). Rush Limbaugh In Night School. Dramatists Play Service, c1997.. ISBN 0822215349. 

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