By Christian Holub
February 17, 2021 at 12:58 PM EST

Rush Limbaugh, one of the most listened-to radio hosts in America who gained infamy for his right-wing political commentary, has died at 70.

His wife, Kathryn, announced Limbaugh's death on his long-running syndicated talk show on Wednesday, a little more than a year after Limbaugh first shocked viewers with the news that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

Limbaugh was born Jan. 12, 1951, in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The scion of a prominent political family, his official name was Rush Limbaugh III; his grandfather, Rush Limbaugh Sr., had been a member of the Missouri House of Representatives and led the Missouri Historical Society. Limbaugh dropped out of college at Southeast Missouri State University after just two semesters in order to embark on his radio career.

Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage

The Rush Limbaugh Show made its nationally syndicated premiere in 1988, just a year after the FCC ended its "fairness doctrine" that had previously required broadcasters to give equal time to both sides when discussing controversial political issues. Free of this constraint, Limbaugh spent the next few decades airing his opinions — nasty and cruel to some, delightful to others — every weekday on AM radio, where talk shows were blossoming after most music stations had moved to FM. Among his many controversial statements over the years, Limbaugh called a teenage Chelsea Clinton a "dog," reviled feminists as "feminazis," and accused actor Michael J. Fox of faking his Parkinson's symptoms. Limbaugh's brief stint as an ESPN analyst in 2003 ended after he said the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb was overrated by sports media because of his status as a Black quarterback in the NFL. 

Many Republican politicians over the years credited Limbaugh with boosting their popularity among voters, and several (such as President George W. Bush) even made appearances on his show. After congressional Republicans took back majority control of the House of Representatives from Democrats in the 1994 midterm elections, they named Limbaugh an honorary member of their caucus. Following Limbaugh's lung cancer announcement last year, President Donald Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the midst of the annual State of the Union.

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