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Keller @ Large: Remembering Conservative Radio Host Rush Limbaugh

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Rush Limbaugh died Wednesday at 70.

Video Transcript

LISA HUGHES: A giant in the world of conservative talk radio has been silenced. Rush Limbaugh has died at the age of 70. Limbaugh had been fighting terminal lung cancer.

DAVID WADE: He helped to shape the national political conversation and a lot of times drew attention for his controversial views. Tonight, WBZ's Jon Keller takes a look at his legacy.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: Welcome to the Rush Limbaugh program.

JON KELLER: He was a master of his medium, fusing humor and storytelling skill with right wing politics to build an unmatched radio talk empire.

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

JON KELLER: The "Rush Limbaugh Show" drew millions of listeners known as Ditto heads, some of whom ate lunch in so-called Rush Rooms where his show was piped in. They were drawn to both his effusive advocacy of conservative principles and a blunt sense of grievance that sometimes shredded the envelope. This was his 2006 take on actor Michael J Fox's affliction with Parkinson's disease.

RUSH LIMBAUGH: In this commercial he is exaggerating.

JON KELLER: In 2012, he referred to a Georgetown Law student as a slut and a feminazi for backing insurance coverage for contraceptives, apologizing later when advertisers fled. Limbaugh also promoted the false birther theory that President Obama wasn't born here. And he was no stranger to racist remarks. But his clout was undeniable. The first President Bush once personally carried Limbaugh's bag into the White House for an overnight stay.

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

JON KELLER: Limbaugh's cancer diagnosis prompted President Trump to award him the nation's highest civilian honor, in part an acknowledgment that Limbaugh's fusion of showbiz, politics, and resentment had paved the way for Trump's rise. His response to critics who labeled him the most Dangerous Man in America?

RUSH LIMBAUGH: The Most Dangerous Man-- no! I'm a harmless fuzzball.

DAVID WADE: So Jon, in your opinion, how much of Limbaugh's act was real and how much of it was to get people to listen?

JON KELLER: Well that always seems to be the question these days at one level or another, doesn't it, David? I would say that there was more showman than idealogue at work here. Limbaugh said in interviews that he thrived best ratings-wise during times when there was a Democrat in the White House because it's easier to attract ears to you when you're being adversarial to something. So that gives you a hint.

I think the bottom line on how he is going to be remembered by the public is, if you liked Donald Trump, what he stood for, the kind of politics he practiced, you owe a lot to Rush Limbaugh. If you didn't, perhaps you'll have less rosy memories. David.

DAVID WADE: I think he's one of those individuals where everyone felt something when they heard his name and when they heard his show. No question about that. John Keller, thank you so much. We appreciate your insight. Lisa, over to you.