Rush Limbaugh found success in his career by positioning himself as the alternative to mainstream news and developing relationships with audiences that felt personal – and often offensive, according to Virginia Tech media expert Megan Duncan.  The 70-year old radio host died from complications due to lung cancer. 

“Rush Limbaugh was a trendsetter, and also an extremely polarizing figure. So much so that regardless of how fact-based my comments on him are, half will think I’m understating his impact on politics and partisan media and the others will think I’m being too soft on his misogyny, racism, and homophobia,” said Duncan.  “He introduced words into the lexicon from "Dittohead" to "soccer mom" to pithy, gross insults. And, their prevalence in kitchen-table conversations spoke to the true power he had to command audiences and influence public opinion.”

Some industry analysts credit Limbaugh for saving A.M. radio. 

“Limbaugh’s strategy for getting on A.M. radio ushered in a new generation of people flipping their dial over from the music stations. His show sounded nothing like public radio and other news radio shows.”

“I think he’ll most be remembered by media scholars for the way he changed how people want their politics news delivered.  From someone who doesn’t hide their bias, who confidently takes pride in their bombastic delivery, and who gives a soft-entry point into political conversations. I think he’ll most be remembered by his listeners as someone who explained the world of politics in a way that engaged him. I think he’ll be remembered by the people who were targeted by his insults and ideological rhetoric as someone who raised the temperature on political bigotry.”

Megan Duncan is an assistant professor in the Virginia Tech School of Communication, in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.  Her research focuses on news credibility, political news and digital news audience engagement.

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To schedule an interview with Megan Duncan, contact Shannon Andrea by email, or by phone at (703) 399-9494, or Bill Foy by email, or by phone at (540) 998-0288.

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