There was, in the hours following Rush Limbaugh’s death at the age of 70, a rush of praise and of judgment-passing about his career and what it meant in the world of politics. The human stories about Limbaugh tended to get lost if you didn’t look hard enough.
Thankfully, country music superstar John Rich was there to remind us.
In 2011, Rich was one of the final two contestants on “Celebrity Apprentice,” hosted by our future former president, Donald Trump. (In a contemporary piece that has aged like a chef’s kiss, Billboard noted that “Trump was presiding over ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’ just six days after declaring he wouldn’t run for the White House in 2012. For several weeks, Trump had floated the idea of a Republican presidential candidacy during a publicity-commanding blast that seemed conveniently to coincide with the current season of his TV show.”)
For the unacquainted, “Celebrity Apprentice” involves celebrities of various levels of fame competing to win money for their favorite charities by completing business tasks.
Rich would eventually win the 2011 season, beating actress Marlee Matlin in a final contest involving promotional campaigns for a brand of soda. The singer, half of the duo Big & Rich, went on to earn $250,000 for his charity of choice, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
St. Jude, based in Memphis, Tennessee, is dedicated to ensuring that children suffering from serious and life-threatening illnesses are treated without their families ever receiving a bill for care. While it treats a variety of diseases, it’s best-known for its focus on childhood cancers.
In 2008, it was named a national comprehensive care center by the National Cancer Institute.
“The mission of the St. Jude Comprehensive Cancer Center is to advance cures for pediatric cancer through research and treatment. St. Jude is the only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated solely to children,” its NCI profile states.
Before going on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Rich, a longtime St. Jude supporter, had set a personal goal of using the appearance to raise more than $1 million for the hospital, he told Fox News on Wednesday.
As a friend of Limbaugh’s, he reached out to the radio host and got a welcome answer, he said.
“When I was on Celebrity Apprentice, Rush Limbaugh made a donation of $100,000 dollars to St Jude Children’s Hospital to support them, and my mission on the TV Show under the condition that he remained anonymous,” Rich tweeted Wednesday.
“I never said a word until now. He will be missed. #RIPRushLimbaugh.”
When I was on Celebrity Apprentice, Rush Limbaugh made a donation of $100,000 dollars to St Jude Children’s Hospital to support them, and my mission on the TV Show under the condition that he remained anonymous. I never said a word until now. He will be missed. #RIPRushLimbaugh
— John Rich (@johnrich) February 17, 2021
Rich, who ended up raising $1.4 million for the hospital from his “Celebrity” appearance, told Fox that Limbaugh was adamant about demanding anonymity.
“When I asked Rush Limbaugh about that, he said, ‘I would love to make a donation, but it has to be anonymous. Don’t tell anybody it came from me, don’t tell Donald Trump it came from me, don’t talk about it in any way, shape or form,'” Rich said.
“I didn’t know what he was going to donate until it showed up,” he continued. “When it showed up, it was $100,000 to the kids at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and I couldn’t tell anybody where it came from.
“I just thought it was a really respectful move on his end to do a great thing for those kids at that hospital and support my efforts on that show and just something that really stuck with me over the years.”
In the hours after Limbaugh’s death was announced, Rich realized quickly that Rush was going to be attacked in death as he was in life, with the phrases “rot in hell” and “rest in p–s” trending on Twitter.
The left is celebrating the slow and painful death of #RushLimbaugh as they demand we all “unify or else!” I’m sure Rush would have expected exactly this level of hypocrisy from them. Really disgusting. Read the comments to my last tweet. That’s the “tolerant left” in action.
— John Rich (@johnrich) February 17, 2021
“The left is celebrating the slow and painful death of #RushLimbaugh as they demand we all ‘unify or else!’ I’m sure Rush would have expected exactly this level of hypocrisy from them. Really disgusting,” he wrote.
“Read the comments to my last tweet. That’s the ‘tolerant left’ in action.”
Rich also tweeted about singer Elton John’s relationship with Rush Limbaugh — certainly an odd one, given the circumstances, but one that existed nonetheless.
— John Rich (@johnrich) February 18, 2021
“You can disagree with people and still treat each other like fellow human beings,” Rich wrote. “Yes, it’s possible.”
By the way, Limbaugh’s charity in Rich’s case wasn’t unusual for him.
In 2008, in fact, Forbes found Limbaugh was the fourth-most generous celebrity after he gave away 13 percent of his $33 million salary that year. (Ahead of him were Oprah Winfrey, the now-divorced Hollywood power couple Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, and former NBA superstar and businessman Michael Jordan.)
Through 2016, Limbaugh had raised $47 million for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. In 2019, he announced sales of his merchandise had earned over $5 million for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which provides financial assistance to military members, veterans, fallen heroes and their families. In 2018, he and his wife, Kathryn, gave $500,000 to the Dana Farber Cancer Clinic in Boston as part of a $5 million foundation they established, according to Showbiz 411.
And in the St. Jude case, for over 10 years, Limbaugh preferred to remain anonymous when he donated. Wade into the comments section on Rich’s Twitter post, however, and you’ll see plenty of venomous condemnations. No one rethinks their position. No one thinks, period.
For those of us who grieve for Limbaugh, it won’t just be for his wit and warmth — and he had both of those, much as the media will shy away from telling you about any of that. His generosity and charity will also be missed. Gone too soon at 70 — rest in peace, Rush.
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