After talk radio king Rush Limbaugh died in February, his syndication company said it wouldn’t fill the time slot with a new voice until Limbaugh’s fans were ready to let go.
The time for that letting go has arrived, and Premiere Networks chose two men for the job: Clay Travis, a Fox Sports Radio personality and podcaster, and Buck Sexton, a Premiere talk radio host who has worked for Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze TV and radio network.
But “letting go” is a bit misleading, as Limbaugh will still dominate the time slot in spirit when Travis and Sexton take over June 21.
Their show will continue under the umbrella of the “EIB” or “Excellence in Broadcasting Network,” a name that Limbaugh coined, according to Rachel Nelson, a spokesperson for Premiere.
Travis and Sexton are featured prominently on the Rushlimbaugh.com website, which Premiere owns, and the site will stream their show and offer Limbaugh’s archived content indefinitely for subscribers, Nelson said.
Billing the show as “inspired by Rush,” the hosts have made clear in recent media appearances that they plan to continue his brand of conservatism, even down to recycling some of Limbaugh’s jokes. In a tweet from the new Twitter account @Clayandbuck, they recently counted down to the debut show, saying it was four broadcast days away — “six more total days for those of you in Rio Linda” — which was a running gag for Limbaugh, who once called the California town “my pet little favorite community to pick on.”
Although Travis, who has called himself a “radical moderate,” and Sexton have worked in national conservative media the past five years, they are hardly household names. Neither made the top 25 of Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” listing of the most important talk radio hosts for 2021. (Neither did Limbaugh, because of the magazine’s criteria of having to be working in radio at the time the list was published in June.) Sexton came in at No. 43; Travis wasn’t on the list.
Of the two men, Travis, 42, seems most likely to say things to provoke national outrage, as Limbaugh did in years past.
In 2016, Travis went on CNN to discuss an ESPN anchor who had called Donald Trump a white supremacist on Twitter and said, “The only 2 things I 100% believe in are the First Amendment and boobs.” The host and other guest were visibly disturbed by the remark, and CNN said he would not be invited back, but the Washington Post later reported that Travis had used the line before. “This is who Travis is. CNN ought to have known what it was getting,” Callum Borchers wrote in the Post. He’s also been criticized for saying in February 2020 that the coronavirus was overrated.
Before teaming up with Sexton, Travis was the host of “Outkick the Coverage With Clay Travis,” a nationally-syndicated Fox Sports Radio program, and co-hosted a gambling TV show called “Fox Bet Live.” He founded the Outkick website, which was recently bought by Fox News, and has written three books, all about sports: “Dixieland Delight,” “On Rocky Top: A Front-Row Seat to the End of an Era,” and “Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too: How the Left is Ruining Sports With Politics.”
Sexton, 39, already had a three-hour show with Premiere that aired on more than 200 stations. He also had a live weekday show on WOR in New York. According to Premiere, he is a former CIA officer and counterterrorism expert with the New York Police Department. He once worked for TheBlaze.com, the media network founded by Glenn Beck, as a national security editor, Premiere said.
It will be a challenge for Travis and Sexton to build an audience as loyal as Limbaugh’s. On Friday, the new show had just 181 followers on Facebook, about 4,500 on Twitter.
But the last caller on the final “Open Line Friday” show indicated that he is willing to give the new guys a chance.
Fred from Brooklyn, New York, began by saying “Dittos forever” to guest host Ken Matthews, then went on to say that Limbaugh was the first positive male influence he’d had in his life, and that Limbaugh had inspired him to open his own business 30 years ago. “I just can’t believe this is coming to an end,” he said. But he added, “I will listen to whoever fills this spot, because this spot has changed my life.”
Not every station that aired Limbaugh, however, will be broadcasting the new show. According to a Fox News report, some affiliates have picked up conservative commentator Dan Bongino’s show, and others have put local talent in the slot.