Even in death, Rush Limbaugh is both reviled and revered as a lightning rod

Rush Limbaugh speaks at a lectern embossed with the presidential seal.
Rush Limbaugh introduces President Trump at the start of a 2018 campaign rally in Missouri.
(Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

The death of talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh was destined to produce radically polarized reactions on social media. And that’s exactly what happened Wednesday.

Conservatives reacted solemnly to Limbaugh’s death after the longtime voice of the right succumbed to lung cancer at age 70. Meanwhile, many of those who were appalled by the radio host’s long history of inflammatory rhetoric were unabashed in their hatred of the veteran broadcaster.

“He was truly a man of the future,” former President Trump said on Fox News. “He loved this country so much. He loved the people of this country so much. ... He was just something special.”

Rush Limbaugh had huge influence in the political sphere, setting the stage for the rise of conservative talk radio with ‘The Rush Limbaugh Show.’

Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Limbaugh last year, which former California Congresswoman Katie Hill noted in her reaction to the radio host’s death.


“So is Rush Limbaugh going to go down in history as the worst person to ever receive the presidential medal of freedom or is there someone else?” Hill tweeted.

Trump’s sentiments, however, were echoed by Republican politicians, operatives and commentators on Twitter.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas called Limbaugh a “tireless voice for freedom and the conservative movement” and said he was praying for Limbaugh’s family. Kellyanne Conway said he was “an architect of the center-right movement” who “gave voice to millions of pro-freedom Americans.”

“For more than 30 years no one did more to educate, inform, inspire, and just plain entertain Americans about the issues of the day than Rush Limbaugh,” former Vice President Mike Pence said in a Twitter thread.

Among Limbaugh’s critics, Bishop Talbert W. Swan II, president of a Massachusetts branch of the NAACP, shared his thoughts in a reply to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s tweet eulogizing Limbaugh.

“Rush Limbaugh was a despicable racist. He was a vile, repugnant, white supremacist who denigrated Black people, mocked those dying of AIDS and other diseases, and stoked the flames of bigotry and hatred,” Swan said. “Our country has lost one of its most wicked voices. Praise God.”

Others revisited some of Limbaugh’s widely denounced previous remarks, including his suggestion that actor Michael J. Fox was “faking” his Parkinson’s disease — for which the radio host later apologized, as advertisers fled — and his insults about Chelsea Clinton’s appearance when she was a young teen in the White House.

The progressive Young Turks podcaster Cenk Uygur added his two cents, tweeting, “Rush Limbaugh was a terrible person while he was alive. He made a living by attacking the powerless. His death does not in anyway change or redeem that.”

Read on for more divided reactions to Limbaugh’s death.