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The right voice

Limbaugh inspired local conservatives, media

FILE - In this Feb. 4, 2020 file photo, Rush Limbaugh reacts as first Lady Melania Trump, and his wife Kathryn, applaud, as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington. Limbaugh, the talk radio host who became the voice of American conservatism, has died. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

Rush Limbaugh’s frank words inspired local radio listeners and workers with his conservative views.

“Like him or not, Rush was the reason many of us, including myself, fell in love with talk radio,” Chris Forshey of Forever Media in State College said. Limbaugh “is and always will be the greatest talk radio host of all time.”

Limbaugh, 70, died Wednesday of lung cancer.

The conservative fan favorite began his decadeslong career in Pennsylvania, briefly working in McKeesport and Pittsburgh, and once did a meet-and-greet in Altoona.

Forshey said, “I always admired his ability to easily and intelligently express his thoughts and ideas. Most of all, he was never afraid to challenge people and their positions.”

WRTA General Manager Matt Lightner remembers Limbaugh for his “passion and dedication,” and said the longtime syndicated radio host was a fearless leader in the conservative movement.

WRTA was one of Limbaugh’s original affiliates, which started syndication to stations nationwide in 1988, according to Lightner.

“Rush was never afraid to express his thoughts and challenged others he didn’t agree with,” Lightner said. “He strongly believed in conservatism, and simply had an amazing talent to explain what that meant to millions of listeners.”

Limbaugh was widely regarded as the single-most influential voice in conservatism.

Former state Rep. John McGinnis, a staunch conservative, first hosted a talk show on WRTA from 2006-12 — then served six years in the state Legislature before opting not to seek another term. He gave WRTA a second go in 2019, hosting Two Way Radio, through which he spurs dialogue on a medley of local, national and global topics through a conservative lens.

McGinnis credits Limbaugh with “(awakening him) to what was going on politically.”

“He was the voice of the conservative message,” McGinnis said. “He was the person who let us conservatives know that we’re not alone.”

Forshey said he also admired Limbaugh’s resilience and success despite the latter being doubted early in his career.

“Rush was originally told by many that he would never have a career in radio,” Forshey said. “Instead of quitting, he built a legacy that went well beyond the microphone.”

McGinnis credited Limbaugh with shaping “the conservative message,” and said it “would be much more diminished today if it weren’t for his decades of broadcast.”

McGinnis said the future of talk radio is bright, directly as a result of Limbaugh’s influence on the industry and the support he gave others.

“He built a league of entertaining and interesting speakers and radio talk-show hosts, so that industry is thriving right now largely because of Rush and largely because he was supportive of anybody who got into (talk radio),” McGinnis said. “He was never one of these people that said, ‘Nobody’s going to get in my territory.’ He was a guy who welcomed.”

Lightner said that Limbaugh’s influence was profound, defining today’s conservatism.

“I personally feel he helped shape the modern-day Republican Party with his talk show and views,” Lightner said. “There is no other way to explain it other than to say Rush was the icon of talk radio and no one can replace him.”

Mirror Staff Writer Andrew Mollenauer is at 814-946-7428.

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