Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., called it a “powerful moment” on Twitter, with conservative TV personality Meghan McCain saying that those on the right most likely applauded it.
“He’s completely changed the paradigm of radio,” McCain said on “The View,” when asked by co-host Whoopi Goldberg what Limbaugh had done to deserve the honor.
Those on the other side of the political divide argued otherwise.
Joe Biden, then months away from being elected president, condemned Trump in a statement for presenting the award to Limbaugh, whom he called “a conservative media personality who has done as much as Trump himself to divide our nation.”
Trump, during an interview on Fox News on Wednesday, called Limbaugh a “fighter,” adding: “I mean he, in theory, could have been gone four months ago, really. He was fighting until the very end. He was a fighter.”
Beginning a career in radio in 1971, Limbaugh became known for his conservative opinions and views on immigration, women’s rights and race. He launched “The Rush Limbaugh Show” in 1988 and steadily remained among the most influential radio show hosts, as determined by Talkers magazine.
Limbaugh’s presence in talk radio effectively changed the course of the industry, and he’s often been credited with saving AM radio. When he first launched his show, he offered a new kind of talk show that many hadn’t heard before, according to Brian Rosenwald, a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania whose research focus includes media studies and Limbaugh himself.
The status quo prior to Limbaugh mainly consisted of hosts conducting interviews or hearing from callers, rarely letting their own opinions and values seep into the conversation, according to Rosenwald. Yet Limbaugh proudly shared his opinions and garnered a loyal fanbase.
“He’s doing something that people had never heard,” Rosenwald told ABC News. “He starts to feel a responsibility as he starts getting all these callers saying, ‘Thank God, Rush, you’re finally on air. We finally have a voice.'”
Even after his own announcement, he wanted little sympathy, telling listeners, “I refuse to let anyone think I am doing something great here, when there are people you never hear about who face long odds and never resort to such escapes.”