Rush Limbaugh Has Advanced Lung Cancer

Sad news from the conservative talk icon.

Controversial talk radio host Rush Limbaugh announced on yesterday’s episode of his eponymous show that he is about to begin treatment for advanced-stage lung cancer.

This day has been one of the most difficult days in recent memory for me because I’ve known this moment was coming in the program today. Now, I’m sure that you all know by now, I really don’t like talking about myself, and I don’t like making things about me other than in the usual satirical, parodic, joking way.

I like this program to be about you and the things that matter to all of us. The one thing that I know that has happened over the 31-plus years of this program is that there has been an incredible bond that has developed between all of you and me. Now, this program’s 31 years old, and in that 31 years, there are people — you hear them call all the time — who have been listening the whole time. They’ve been listening 30 years or 25 years.

I just had somebody say they’ve been here three years. But, whatever, it is a family-type relationship to me, and I’ve mentioned to you that this program and this job is what has provided me the greatest satisfaction and happiness that I’ve ever experienced, more than I ever thought that I would experience. So I have to tell you something today that I wish I didn’t have to tell you.

It’s a struggle for me because I had to inform my staff earlier today. I can’t escape… Even though people are telling me it’s not the way to look at it, I can’t help but feel that I’m letting everybody down with this. But the upshot is that I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, diagnosis confirmed by two medical institutions back on January 20th. I first realized something was wrong on my birthday weekend, January 12th.

I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, and I thought about not telling anybody. I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing, ’cause I don’t like making things about me. But there are going to be days that I’m not gonna be able to be here because I’m undergoing treatment or I’m reacting to treatment, and I know that that would inspire all kinds of curiosity with people wondering what’s going on.

And the worst thing that can happen is when there is something going on and you try to hide it and cover it up. It’s eventually gonna leak, and then people are gonna say, “Why didn’t you just say it? Why’d you try to fool everybody? ” It’s not that I want to fool anybody. It’s just that I don’t want to burden anybody with it, and I haven’t wanted to. But it is what it is. You know me; I’m the mayor of Realville.

So this has happened, and my intention is to come here every day I can and to do this program as normally and as competently and as expertly as I do each and every day, because that is the source of my greatest satisfaction professionally, personally. I’ve had so much support from family and friends during this that it’s just been tremendous.

I don’t know the prognosis for the ailment but Limbaugh certainly has the resources to afford the best treatment available. I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

Limbaugh essentially invented the modern political talk radio format and, in turn, single-handedly saved AM radio. He is a giant in the industry and has received its highest award five times. Filling three hours of air time, five days a week, week after week, year after year, with compelling and entertaining content for more than three decades is incredibly difficult and he’s made it look easy.

Yet, I’ve come to believe that he and the genre he created have ultimately been bad for not only the conservative movement and Republican Party but for our country. I didn’t always feel that way.

Limbaugh’s show became nationally syndicated while I was overseas serving in the Army. I heard about it when I returned in 1992 and became a near-daily listener, often for the entire three-hour show, for years.

There was nothing else like it at the time. He combined humor and commentary in a way I’d not experienced before. And he became easily the most important conservative media figure because there really was not much competition in those days before the launch of Fox News.

CNN’s “Crossfire,” which was uneven at best, aired half an hour weeknightly but was a debate show with stock characters. Bill Buckley’s “Firing Line” aired weekly but was an interview-style show. George Will appeared in a weekly 15-minutish panel with David Brinkley, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts on “This Week.” And there was whatever “The McLaughlin Group” was.

Limbaugh kept me entertained through graduate school and my early days as a college professor. My current co-blogger Steven Taylor and I were both avid listeners when we arrived at Troy State together in 1998 and often engaged in real-time discussions about it.

Limbaugh, of course, inspired imitators, most of whom were pale comparisons. I believe he was responsible for the rise of Sean Hannity, who I first heard of when he became a frequent substitute host.

The imitators were not only less talented and less entertaining but they tended to be either less intelligent or meaner. It’s true that Limbaugh always had cringeworthy bits like “feminazis,” but he managed to inject enough light-heartedness and joy into the routine that it didn’t feel mean.

By the time I left Troy, I’d grown tired of the act. Partly, because it became repetitious. Mostly, though, it became clear how much of the schtick was, well, a schtick. He didn’t feel compelled to be intellectually consistent, freely applying different standards to Democrats and Republicans and, indeed, became enthusiastic supporters of Republican nominees he had bashed during the primaries. Eventually, it just got old.

Since starting OTB 17 years ago (indeed, our anniversary was last Friday) I don’t think I’ve listened to the show other than a few segments after the fact when something hit the news. But the act seems to have gotten meaner and more partisan, presumably because that’s where the competition has gone and he was forced to keep up.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. John Peabody says:

    Very astute analysis. I always told people that I respect Rush highly…as an entertainer.

    8
  2. Joe says:

    Not a fan, but 3 hours daily of barely scripted material that kept his fan base entertained for decades: that is no mean feat. I wish he used his powers for good instead of evil, but my hat’s off to his idiosyncratic genius.

    5
  3. steve says:

    I listened to him quite a bit when he was new. I have never been a Clinton fan so it was fun to listen to him skewer them. However, once he had the ditto heads and the show became much more about him I stopped listening. It had also become more clear, as you said, that he was just a partisan hack, not someone who would skewer politicians from both sides. (If you ever watched CNBC in the morning Mark Haynes used to do that so well. I miss that. Now it is partisan like every other show.)

    While I hope he does well, I have seen lots of lung cancer deaths and they arent pretty so I dont wish that on anyone, it should be noted that Limbaugh is one of those kinds of conservatives who has either denied or minimized the risks of smoking. Since it was the government that said smoking is bad for you, and the government is always wrong, then smoking cant be that bad. I hope he takes this opportunity to tell his audience he was wrong about that and people should not smoke and that second hand smoke really is bad for you. (Since part of the current conservative schtick, ala Trump, is to never admit when you are wrong I am not optimistic he will do this, but he would serve his followers well if he did.)

    Steve

    9
  4. Teve says:

    Limbaugh’s denial of a link between tobacco and cancer is every bit as scientific and well-informed as his denial of a link between carbon and warming.

    21
  5. grumpy realist says:

    Didn’t Rush Limbaugh pooh-pooh the link between smoking and lung cancer?

    Sorry, I don’t feel that Nature clobbering him for his own stupidity is something I have to think is a tragedy. Does he have the guts to admit to everyone that he was wrong?

    Also, as one of the people who fell in the class he called “feminazi” I may have a different reaction about Limbaugh’s supposed “joyous entertainment.”

    28
  6. Mike in Arlington says:

    @John Peabody: I’d also add “and a business man.”

    1
  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I have never once said a kind word about that him. I see no reason to change that now. And that is as close to polite as I’ll ever get.

    20
  8. Kathy says:

    Does anyone recall an old SNL sketch about a group of Romanians gathered around the body of Ceausescu, trying to come up with something nice to say at his funeral?

    13
  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: And the best they could come up with is, “He looks better now than he has in decades.”?

    5
  10. DrDaveT says:

    Yet, I’ve come to believe that he and the genre he created have ultimately been bad for not only the conservative movement and Republican Party but for our country.

    Words fail.

    Similarly, I have now come to believe that lead-based paint and asbestos insulation may also have ultimately been bad for not only interior design and interior decorators but for our country.

    17
  11. SenyorDave says:

    When Lee Atwater was dying he spent a large portion of his remaining time apologizing for his past behavior. He was very specific and named people who he had wronged. Maybe Rush will follow suit, but I would be shocked to see it happen.
    My wife was diagnosed with lymphoma last year, so I will never gloat over something like this, but nor will I have sympathy. He made the world a worse place.

    18
  12. EddieInCA says:

    You are all better people than me. My first reactions was “How horrible a person am am I for not feeling any sympathy for him, knowing how horrible this disease is?”

    I blame Rush for much of the disinformation we have to deal with on a daily basis among Dittoheads and the MAGA crowd.

    No. I said shitty things about him in the past, and I’m not going to change now.

    The best I can come up with is I hope it takes him quickly.

    17
  13. Jen says:

    Shannon Doherty (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) announced this morning that her cancer is back; she’s also stage 4.

    Cancer sucks. Sorry to hear that anyone is going through it.

    5
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    He hurt this country, our constitution, truth itself. He’s a bad man who did bad things and inspired hatred, racism, misogyny and lies in other people. It’s a pity he lived this long.

    When a good person dies I sometimes make the point that we all die, but few of us get to die a heroic or meaningful death and that a person who dies after a good life gets the best ending any of us can hope for.

    When a bad man dies I mourn the fact that hell does not exist.

    25
  15. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Sorry, what’s the “sad” part?

    13
  16. Mikey says:

    This Reddit comment pretty much says it all as far as Limbaugh is concerned.
    He is a force for evil and while I have never wished him dead I won’t mourn him either.
    https://www.reddit.com/r/news/comments/eyd0mb/comment/fggkmdg?sort=confidence

    9
  17. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    When someone like Shannen Doherty or Alex Trebek announce they have cancer, I am sorry to hear it.

    When it’s someone like Rush Limbaugh or Hugo Chavez, all I can come up with is “meh.”

    5
  18. Gustopher says:

    There was nothing else like it at the time. He combined humor and commentary in a way I’d not experienced before.

    In daily three-hour chunks that normalized racism, misogyny and hatred of political opposition behind a facade of “it’s just entertainment”?

    He made the world an objectively worse place.

    I wish him a long and painful recovery, and then to be set upon by fire ants. And then a relapse.

    15
  19. just nutha says:

    @Kathy (and most everyone else): My thoughts exactly. While I agree with the “not wishing this on anyone” part, my overall reaction is to take some comfort in knowing that Karma is still a beeyotch.

    3
  20. gVOR08 says:

    We suffer from our state of polarization. We suffer from the spread of false information. And some conception of propriety asks me to bemoan the plight of the individual most responsible for these things?

    I may enjoy a minute or two of believing in the just world fallacy.

    3
  21. the Q says:

    Good news! the hate and spite that dirtbag spews daily will finally come to an end, through the awful grace of God. Here’s hoping the hurt and pain that fat bas tard caused many over the years will come back a thousand times over in pain and suffering during his treatment.

    I can count on a few fingers those who I wish such opprobrium. With any luck, Mitch McConnell is next. Then Louis Gommert. After that, it’s a tossup with about a hundred other GOP lunatics.

    4
  22. Liberal Capitalist says:

    … and so continues the deaths of the entitled boomers.

  23. the Q says:

    PS, On second thought, let’s substitute “The” Dick Cheney for Gommert.

  24. Bill says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    When a bad man dies I mourn the fact that hell does not exist.

    I have actually been to Hel and my dear wife got to shake hands with the President of Poland who was campaigning there at the time.

    1
  25. David S. says:

    It’s a little early to be writing an obituary, isn’t it? He’s not dead yet.

  26. An Interested Party says:

    It’s true that Limbaugh always had cringeworthy bits like “feminazis,” but he managed to inject enough light-heartedness and joy into the routine that it didn’t feel mean.

    Hmm…I challenge anyone to talk about how “he managed to inject enough light-heartedness and joy in the routine that it didn’t feel mean” after reading so many of his quotes on the Reddit link above…

    But the act seems to have gotten meaner and more partisan, presumably because that’s where the competition has gone and he was forced to keep up.

    Of course, it wasn’t his fault that he sunk lower and lower…

    10
  27. Bill says:

    @David S.: It’s a little early to be writing an obituary, isn’t it?

    I don’t know if it is still practiced, but the MSM (Associated Press and other major wire services) used to have prepared obituaries for famous celebrities and public figures who were getting on in years. So when the person died, they could have something out quickly.

    2
  28. Mister Bluster says:

    @John Peabody:..as an entertainer.

    He made it clear his broadcast was all about entertainment and not a news broadcast. This relieved him of any responsibility for accuracy and truth.
    Very early on in his syndication I heard a caller accuse him of lying about voting in the NY election. I believe it was a primary. This must have been before his screeners were very thorough.
    “Rush you did not vote in that election.”
    “I did too.” he snorted.
    “No you did not and I have proof.”
    “What proof?” he bellowed.
    “When you vote in NY elections you have to sign a card that has your name on it to prevent any election fraud. That card is a matter of public record. I checked your card and it was not signed. You did not vote in the election.”
    He was caught lying and he could not deny that he had lied!
    “What?” he blustered, “You mean you have to sign a card when you vote in NY?”
    Not like he would take any responsibility for lying he shifted the blame to State of New York election laws.
    I figured if he would lie about voting he would lie about anything.
    That was the last time I paid any attention to him.

    6
  29. Raoul says:

    It’s a terrible way to go, may he get a heart attack and spare himself.

    1
  30. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Bill:

    I have actually been to Hel …”

    Well… I’ve ridden my motorcycle to Hell and back. It was nice!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hell,_Michigan

  31. Kathy says:

    @Bill:

    Helsinki airport’s 3-letter code is HEL. This means that just about every year HEL freezes over.

    4
  32. Barry says:

    @An Interested Party: Seconding this.

    Frankly, the world is the worse for him having lived, and will be the better for him having died.

    4
  33. Gustopher says:

    @David S.:

    It’s a little early to be writing an obituary, isn’t it? He’s not dead yet.

    I’m ok celebrating twice.

    4
  34. motopilot says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: Well… I’ve ridden my motorcycle to Hell and back. It was nice!

    I rode my motorcycle to Hell’s Canyon here in the Northwest. Upon arriving my odometer clocked over to 66,666.6 miles. True story. Had to take a photo of it.

    1
  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Guarneri:
    Am I to gather that you and Limbaugh are coterminous in your cosmology? An offense against him is an offense against you? Even posthumously?

    I’d hate to see you banned. You have so much to offer.

    3
  36. DrDaveT says:

    Rush Limbaugh is awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Up next: Adolf Hitler gets a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.

    3
  37. mattbernius says:

    It’s telling how some people, apparently with fragile egos, manage to turn every thread into a humble brag about themselves.

    – “Great photo. I could have been a great photographer, but I was already a competitive golfer and I could only concentrate on one thing. I still am a great golfer.”

    – “On STEM, did I mention that I fell into the top 1% on my SAT verbal? I only got in the top 10% in math, but that’s average.”

    – “Someone wrote something mean about Rush Limbaugh, but please ban me because I want to be a martyr.”

    God, it must be exhausting to have to know a person like that IRL and constantly having to listen to the insecurely brag about themselves and redirect ever conversation back onto themselves.

    4
  38. Kit says:

    @mattbernius: I was going to write something similar, but more in depth. More penetrating. And, you know, better written.

    3
  39. 95 South says:

    @mattbernius: Agreed that Michael and Guarneri are embarrassments, but so is this whole thread. James set you up with a critical but polite article about a dying man, and you all took the bait.

    1
  40. An Interested Party says:

    James set you up with a critical but polite article about a dying man, and you all took the bait.

    Ohhhhh, like how Nancy Pelosi took the bait…who knew that scumbags and sleazeballs deserve some kind of deference even if they are now dying of something they dismissed as nothing in the past (among so much other abhorrent behavior) or when they vomit a whole bunch of lies while giving the SOTU…

    2