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Not short of an opinion: Nigel Farage and Nick Ferrari on LBC. © Jamie Wiseman/Daily Mail/Shutterstock, YouTube

Rise of the British shock jock

Right-wing radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh softened up America for the Trump era. Could the UK’s own new breed of polarising presenters do the same here?

By Zoe Williams   June 2021

Could we trace a direct line from Rush Limbaugh, America’s most popular talk radio host until his death in February, to Donald Trump, the world’s least qualified leader since Kaiser Wilhelm II and America’s most destructive president? 

We could start this circuitous but plausible journey in 1988, when Limbaugh’s flagship talk show for WABC in New York made its debut, and end in 2020 with Trump’s final State of the Union address, in which he awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the day after the right-wing shock jock revealed that he had lung cancer. Along the way there have been many imitators, including Mike Pence—who before being Trump’s vice president hosted a radio show that he dubbed “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” for WRCR-FM in Indiana. Limbaugh has also served as inspiration for Fox newscasters like Tucker Carlson and the hard-right website Breitbart News, which from 2012 was…

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