Legendary conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died Wednesday at age 70, was successful in the crowded field of political commentary “because he meant it,” Tucker Carlson said, looking back at his storied career.
Limbaugh, who had been battling advanced-stage lung cancer at his Palm Beach County, Fla., home was different than many others in that sphere because he connected with his audience in a way that was sincere.
“I would say two things, he was obviously a remarkable communicator; a great explainer, but also a decent and nice person, by the way,” he said.
“One thing that struck me about Rush Limbaugh was that he meant it. He was, unlike others — there are people in broadcasting who aren’t entirely authentic — Rush Limbaugh was sincere — he was a pretty sincere guy. When he said it, he meant it.”
The Missouri native’s more-than-three-decade success on the radio was a testament to that, the “Tucker Carlson Tonight” host said.
Carlson added that, as a longtime resident of Washington, Limbaugh was seen by many inside the Beltway as “coming out of nowhere” and forming a media movement of sorts.
“I will never forget the shock and horror with which his show was received when people in Washington, where I lived, realized it existed,” he said.
Carlson noted that until August 1988, Limbaugh had been mainly a staple of Northern California radio, based out of Sacramento.
Carlson remarked the city may be the capital, but not really the “center” of media or anything else for the region. He added that at the time, AM-banded radio was considered a dead medium, and that no one in the professional class expected an upstart host to gain such traction on its airwaves.
“Rush Limbaugh mobilized this group of disaffected voters — who were Republican mostly, but weren’t entirely sold on the Republican program — they were conservatives above anything else. He mobilized them, and was the force … who allowed Republicans to gain back the House after 50 years. No one saw it coming.”
Carlson said that at the time of Rush’s initial rise, he was working at an Arkansas newspaper and had never heard of the commentator until he started hearing about “Rush rooms” where people would gather to listen to the new radio program.
“The internet was coming online and here was this guy who took the oldest of mass communication media and turned it into the most powerful force in American politics. He did it purely out of talent. He had the famous line about how talented he was. He was speaking half-in-jest, but it was effectively true. He didn’t have anything going for him. God knows what will happen to AM radio now, but he kept that entire medium alive, just because he was talented, intense, and sincere. From a media point of view, I don’t think anybody has done anything like that.”