Rush Limbaugh, the tirelessly provocative voice of conservative America that has dominated radio programming for over 30 years, with specific attacks on liberals, Democrats, feminists, environmentalists and other moving targets, died Wednesday at the age of 70.
His wife, Kathryn, said the cause was lung cancer. Limbaugh announced in his program last February that he had advanced lung cancer. A day later, President Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, during his State of the Union address.
Limbaugh quickly resumed his agendas and his adoration for Trump. As the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country, he compared the coronavirus to a cold. And in October, as Election Day approached and Trump himself recovered from the virus, he joined Limbaugh on air for a two-hour “virtual rally”, largely dedicated to his complaints.
“We love it,” Limbaugh told the president on behalf of his listeners. But ten days later, the broadcaster told the audience that her cancer had worsened and, despite the treatments, “was going in the wrong direction.”
Loved on the right since launching his national agenda under the presidency of his first hero, Ronald Reagan, Limbaugh has been heard regularly by around 15 million Americans. That hearing, and his constant criticism of President Barack Obama for eight years when Republicans were often seen as inconsistent, seemed to elevate him, at least for a time, to the de facto leadership rank of conservative Republicans.
This speech became obsolete in 2016, with the meteoric rise of Trump, who, after several flirtations with presidential races never taken very seriously, suddenly erupted like a supernova in the national political landscape. Trump became president and Limbaugh a staunch supporter.
“It’s great,” Limbaugh said, looking really drunk, of his new White House champion. “Can we agree that Donald Trump probably appreciates this more than anyone wants to admit, or anyone knows?”
Like a dream come true, Limbaugh praised the president’s efforts to curb Muslim immigration, cut taxes, promote American jobs, push back Obamacare, increase military spending, and dismantle environmental protections.
As for opposition to the Trump agenda and allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Limbaugh had a ready explanation.
“This attack comes from the shadow of the Deep State, where former Obama employees remain in the intelligence community,” he said. “They are lying about things, hoping to make it easier for themselves and for the Obama administration in the shadows to eventually get rid of Trump and everyone in his government.”
After Republican MPs first called for the president’s impediment, Limbaugh thankfully attacked, “Why is Trump really being impeached?” He said. “Because he’s too successful.” He added: “Donald Trump is being impeached because he cuts taxes … because he gets the economy going.”
Extremely sarcastic, often hilarious, always belligerent, Limbaugh was strongly partisan, critically vilified and admired by millions, a master of 3 hour monologues that featured malicious imitations, cutting taunts, musical parodies and a gallery of ‘fools, wicked, liars and broken hearts.
In Limbaugh’s lexicon, advocates of the homeless were “compassionate fascists”, women who advocated abortion, “feminazis”, environmentalists, “tree-hugging idiots.” He did “AIDS Updates” with Dionne Warwick’s song “I’ll Never Love This Again” [Nunca mais vou amar assim], ridiculed Michael J. Fox for the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and called global warming a scam.
He was not above the lies. During the debate on Obama’s health bill in 2009, Limbaugh fueled rumors of his provisions to require Medicare and insurance companies to pay for optional consultations with doctors on palliative treatments and hospital workers, claiming they had empowered “death signs” that “euthanize” elderly Americans.
Unlike Howard Stern, Don Imus, or other big names in radio shock, Limbaugh had no on-air assistants, although he spoke in the voice “over” of someone named “Bo Snerdly” . He also didn’t have writers, scripts, or scripts, just notes and newspaper clippings that he leafed through daily.
In all cases, it was a commercial phenomenon, earning US $ 85 million (R $ 461 million) per year. Married four times and divorced three, with no children, he lived on a beachfront property in a 2,200 m2 mansion. It contained oriental rugs, chandeliers, and a two-story mahogany-paneled bookcase with leather-bound collections. He owned half a dozen cars, one of which cost $ 450,000, and a Gulfstream G550.
Tipping $ 5,000 in restaurants, affecting the bombast of a student who dropped out, was an easy caricature: overweight his whole life, sometimes over 150 pounds, smoked cigars with a smile, mischievous, cheeky eyes , fine hair pulled back from the mastodon’s forehead.
He moved his body with surprising grace as he showed how an environmentalist happily walks through a forest. But his voice was clear, a fast and happy staccato, which transformed into dolphin cries or falsetto sobs to denounce the charitable, enchanting America with its biting and creative vocabulary.