LOS ANGELES (AP) — Conservative radio host and Republican kingmaker Rush Limbaugh said he’s been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
Addressing listeners on his program Monday, Limbaugh said he will take some days off for further medical tests and to determine treatment.
“I have to tell you something today that I wish I didn’t have to tell you,” announced Limbaugh, 69. The cancer diagnosis was confirmed by two medical institutions in late January after he experienced his only symptom so far, shortness of breath, on his Jan. 12 birthday weekend, he said.
He was reluctant to discuss personal matters and distract from his work, he said, and wasn’t seeking to cover up his illness. He realized it was better to be honest and avoid the speculation that would follow when he has to miss being on air for treatment or as the result of treatment, Limbaugh added.
“But it is what it is. And you know me, I’m the mayor of Realville,” he said. “My intention is to come here every day I can. And to do this program as normally” and competently as usual.
He said he considers his listeners to be to be part of a “family type relationship” with him, adding that his job has given him the “greatest satisfaction and happiness” he’s experienced.
Limbaugh’s announcement comes at a tumultuous political time, as the conclusion of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial nears.
Trump paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Many people do not know what a great guy & fantastic political talent the great Rush Limbaugh is. There is nobody like him. Looking for a speedy recovery for our friend!”
“It’s shocking to the industry, and it should be shocking to the political establishment,” Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers magazine, the trade industry publication for talk radio, said of Limbaugh’s disclosure.
He started his first national radio show in 1988 from New York, later relocating to Palm Beach, Florida.
The hyper-partisan broadcaster has dominated talk radio with a raucous, liberal-bashing style that made him one of the most influential voices of American right-wing politics and inspired other conservative broadcasters including Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.
“Rush you are in our prayers,” Beck tweeted. “We live in a time of modern miracles. Millions are praying you find one.”
Limbaugh said he intends to work as much as possible. He also said he had focused more “intensely” in the past two weeks on what he called his “deeply personal relationship” with God.
The media figure’s endorsement and friendship is a conservative political treasure. His idol, Ronald Reagan, wrote a letter that Limbaugh read on the air in December 1992 and which sealed his reputation among conservatives: “You’ve become the number one voice for conservatism in our country,” Reagan wrote.
Two years later, Limbaugh would be so widely credited as key to Republicans’ takeover of Congress for the first time in 40 years, he was deemed an honorary member of the new class.
Limbaugh has frequently been accused of hate-filled speech, including bigotry and blatant racism through his comments and sketches such as “Barack the Magic Negro,” a song featured on his show that said Obama “makes guilty whites feel good” and that the politician is “black, but not authentically.”
His popularity has survived brickbats and thrived despite personal woes.
In 2003, Limbaugh admitted an addiction to painkillers and entered rehabilitation. Authorities opened an investigation into alleged “doctor shopping,” saying he received up to 2,000 pills from four doctors over a period of six months, but he ultimately reached a deal with prosecutors that dismissed the single charge.
AP Media Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.