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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh dead at 70

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Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has died from complications of lung cancer. In his more than three decades on the air, the 70-year-old firebrand developed a reputation for his polarizing views and inflammatory rhetoric. CBS News' Michael George looks back at Limbaugh's legacy.

Video Transcript

- We have some breaking news. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has died from complications related to lung cancer. The 70-year-old was an influential voice in the American conservative movement since the 1990s. His nationally syndicated talk show made him the second highest paid man in radio. Limbaugh often spread conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, and the Obama administration. He was an unflinching supporter of President Trump, who awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020. CBS News' Michael George looks at Limbaugh's legacy.

[CHEERING]

RUSH LIMBAUGH: This is unreal!

MICHAEL GEORGE: Conservative firebrand Rush Limbaugh pushed the envelope on talk radio and online, commenting on everything from pop culture--

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Have we got fun in store for you today?

MICHAEL GEORGE: --to politics for more than three decades.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Let me tell you who we conservatives are. We love people.

[CHEERING]

MICHAEL GEORGE: The Missouri native broke into radio in the '70s, soaring to fame in the '80s with his own nationally syndicated radio program.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Welcome to the "Rush Limbaugh Program."

MICHAEL GEORGE: At one point, the "Rush Limbaugh Show" was the highest rated talk radio show in the nation with millions of listeners known as dittoheads. During that time, Limbaugh developed a reputation for his polarizing views and inflammatory rhetoric.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: We have a major immigration problem.

MICHAEL GEORGE: In 2006, he famously mocked actor Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson's disease.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: In this commercial, he is exaggerating.

MICHAEL GEORGE: In 2012, he referred to a Georgetown Law student as a slut and a feminazi for backing insurance coverage for contraceptives.

- Congratulations, Mr. President.

MICHAEL GEORGE: Limbaugh also promoted the false rumor that President Obama was actually born in Africa and used his show to promote the false birther conspiracy. The popular radio personality battled health issues throughout the years, including hearing loss and opioid addiction, which led to a stint in rehab. In 2015, he downplayed the dangers of smoking. Five years later, the cigar-loving Limbaugh announced he had advanced lung cancer.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.

MICHAEL GEORGE: A staunch supporter of President Trump, the president awarded Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom in 2020, the nation's highest civilian honor.

DONALD TRUMP: He is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.

MICHAEL GEORGE: While some on the left panned him as a divisive figure, Limbaugh described himself differently in a 1991 interview with "60 Minutes."

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The most dangerous man? No, I'm a harmless fuzzball.

MICHAEL GEORGE: His booming voice and combative style helped pave the way for other commentators championing conservative causes in the media. Michael George, CBS News.