Like today’s Fox News personalities, Limbaugh fancied himself as a man of the people who railed against elitist, liberal politicians and voters. But as he did that, he was flying his private jet around the country to wine and dine with powerful figures. The myth he created of himself, with the help of Ailes, is the same myth we see pushed again and again on Fox News by its biggest names.

In retrospect, Ailes may have been using Limbaugh’s TV act as a test run for Fox News, to see if the brand of conservative opinion that was working on the radio could be translated to, and expanded on, TV. In 1996, the same year the Limbaugh show ended, Ailes co-founded Fox News at the behest of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Much of what ensued—the liberal-bashing, fear-mongering, alternative reality in which Fox’s personalities lived—was reminiscent of Ailes’s weird little Limbaugh talk show experiment.

When the show ended, Limbaugh went back to radio. Ailes later unsuccessfully tried to get Limbaugh to join Fox News in 2006. But by that point, the network already had a dozen Limbaughs of its own.

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