Limbaugh's wife Kathryn confirmed his death at the beginning of Limbaugh's radio show, from which he'd been absent for almost two weeks. The 70-year-old radio icon, who made right-wing radio financially viable in American media and himself a Republican kingmaker years before Fox News, revealed in 2020 that his lung cancer was terminal.
In a phone interview with Fox News' Harris Faulkner and Bill Hemmer, former President Donald Trump said Wednesday he last talked to Limbaugh “three or four days ago. His fight was very, very courageous and he was very, very sick.”
Trump said he first met Limbaugh after he began his 2016 presidential campaign and the two got along personally. "He was with me right from the beginning," Trump said of the talk show host.
“Rush is irreplaceable, unique. He had an audience that was massive. … He would get up in the show and just talk. He wouldn’t take phone calls, where people would call in every two minutes. That’s sort of easy to do. He would just talk for two hours or three hours, just talk," Trump said. "That’s not an easy thing to do. I once asked him, I said, ‘Do you study for the show?’ He said, ‘Actually, I study very hard,’ which a little bit surprised me. He was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent. People, whether they loved him or not, they respected him. They really did.”
Fox confined its questions to Limbaugh's death. But at several points, Trump repeated his protests of his election loss to President Joe Biden, claiming Limbaugh agreed with his protests. "Rush felt we won, and he was quite angry about it," Trump claimed.
The former president also issued a statement following his Fox interview where he and Melania Trump offered their "deepest condolences."
"His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced. Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for," Trump said. "He will be missed greatly."
Former Vice President Mike Pence also called into Fox News to speak about Limbaugh's legacy, noting "the country will never forget Rush Limbaugh."
"When I served in the House of Representatives, he was our greatest champion when we were fighting a rearguard action for conservative values in Republican and Democrat administrations. … When I was governor of Indiana and when I served as vice president, he was the anchor of conservatism," Pence said. "He gave voice to a movement and to the ideals that have always made America great and have been making America great again."
Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., called Limbaugh "a true American legend" on Twitter.
Bill O'Reilly reflected on Limbaugh's iconic career.
"The legacy of Rush Limbaugh is clear: the most successful radio broadcaster in history. Mr. Limbaugh provided a conservative balance against the dangerous left wing corporate media machine," he tweeted.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shared a tribute to Limbaugh on Twitter, adding he was "praying for the entire Limbaugh family."
"Rest in peace to the tireless voice for freedom and the conservative movement Rush Limbaugh," he wrote.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Limbaugh a "generational media trailblazer" who "gave a voice to millions of conservative Americans."
Kellyanne Conway offered her condolences and praised Limbaugh on Twitter.
"Rush Limbaugh was an architect of the center-right movement, defined & dominated political talk radio for decades & gave daily voice to millions of pro-freedom Americans. Rush’s inimitable influence inspires his listeners & inflames his critics," she wrote.
Sean Hannity paid tribute to Limbaugh on Fox News, crediting the conservative talk show host for carving out a niche for "opinionated cable networks" and for doing "something that nobody at the time ever thought was possible."
"There's never been anybody like this man. And on a personal level, I know stories (of his generosity), I’d probably get in trouble … if I told them because he never wanted people to know," Hannity said. "But I knew. And that side of him, you know, we see it once a year. He raised tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars, the leukemia society in the course of his life and defeating that. … It's just a shock to the system. I can't really imagine the next political battle without him.”
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted that Limbaugh was "an indispensable and iconic conservative voice." Former Fox Business Network host Lou Dobbs also referred to Limbaugh as a "great American" on Twitter.
"His legions of fans will miss him, and his powerful and bright contribution to our national dialogue is a treasure that will endure for decades to come," Dobbs tweeted.
"Life, Liberty, and Levin" host Mark Levin called Limbaugh a patriot who "refused to accept the attacks that came against this country from within. He refused to accept the ideological changes in this country."
Chris Wallace recalled the beginning of his and Limbaugh's friendship, beginning with the radio talk show host being a repeat guest on "Fox News Sunday."
"You know, the first time I met him, I expected to be kind of blown out of my chair with the Rush Limbaugh bluster and that great rumbling voice. He was actually kind of quiet and even shy," Wallace said. "And, you know, his views were his views. But … he was not as forceful a presence in person, in private, as if he was on the air."
A few others reflected on Limbaugh's controversial legacy, criticizing moments in his past.
Political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen shared a clip from 2006 of Limbaugh saying actor Michael J. Fox was "exaggerating the effects" of his Parkinson's disease.
NPR reporter David Folkenflik tweeted: "Limbaugh also showed Trump the way: showmanship & bombast. At a campaign rally, Trump made fun of a NYT reporter for a physical disability. Years earlier, on the air, Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox for his Parkinson's disease. The insults weren't gaffes. They were the (point)."
"Yeah lol rush limbaugh like top 5 racists in modern history," Manny Fidel, a columnist for Business Insider tweeted alongside a compilation video of Limbaugh talking about race and consent.
Contributing: Maria Puente, Bill Keveney, David Jackson