Former Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump issued statements about Rush Limbaugh in the hours after the popular and controversial right-wing radio host died on Wednesday morning.
In a statement posted on the George W. Bush Presidential Center website, Bush, 74, said that he and former First Lady Laura Bush "are sorry to learn that Rush Limbaugh has passed away."
"A son of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Rush rose as a pioneer of talk radio starting in the 1980s, and was a friend throughout my presidency," continued the 43rd president. "While he was brash, at times controversial and always opinionated, he spoke his mind as a voice for millions of Americans and approached each day with gusto."
"As he battled hearing loss and cancer late in life, he was sustained by the support of friends and family, his love of sports and rock and roll and his belief in God and country," Bush added. "Rush Limbaugh was an indomitable spirit with a big heart, and he will be missed."
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Trump, 74, issued his own statement on Wednesday, saying, "The great Rush Limbaugh has passed away to a better place, free from physical pain and hostility."
"His honor, courage, strength, and loyalty will never be replaced," Trump continued, referring to the late conservative pundit (who was a big supporter) as "a patriot, a defender of liberty and someone who believed in all of the greatness our country stands for."
"Rush was a friend to myself and millions of Americans — a guiding light with the ability to see the truth and paint vivid pictures over the airwaves," Trump continued. "Melania and I express our deepest condolences to his wonderful wife, Kathryn, his family, and all of his dedicated fans. He will be missed greatly."
Calling into Fox News on Wednesday, Trump said he last spoke with Limbaugh three or four days ago. "He was very, very sick … He was fighting until the very end. He was a fighter," Trump said.
Limbaugh had been diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2020 and spoke candidly, as he often did, while his treatment wore on and his prognosis darkened.
He had been off the air in recent days, with guest hosts filling in on his eponymous radio show.
Until his death, Limbaugh had an outsized influence in shaping and reiterating the talking points of conservatives and former President Trump.
While he spoke to an audience of tens of millions — and drew widespread praise from Republicans as a face for American conservatism — he provoked as many other people with a decades-long history of racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric.
More recently, he also echoed Trump in falsely claiming Trump didn't lose the November election.
Limbaugh, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Trump in 2020, had made numerous inflammatory comments, calling former President Barack Obama in a parody song "Barack the Magic Negro"; homophobic ("When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult — it's an invitation") and misogynistic ("Feminism was established as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society").
When Trump honored him with the Medal of Freedom last year during the State of the Union — with Limbaugh growing visibly emotional during the ceremony — the move drew backlash, given Limbaugh's rhetoric.
Limbaugh's wife, Kathryn, announced his death during his radio show on Wednesday. "I, like you, very much wish Rush was behind this golden microphone right now, welcoming you to another exceptional three hours of broadcasting," she said. "For over 32 years, Rush has cherished you, his loyal audience, and always looked forward to every single show."
He profited greatly over the years from his radio career, making hundreds of millions of dollars from the show and its offshoots, according to Vanity Fair.
"It is with profound sadness I must share with you directly that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer," Kathryn said Wednesday. "As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult — even more so when that loved one is larger than life."
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