Limbaugh, third wife getting divorce
By Scott McCabe, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 12, 2004
WEST PALM BEACH -- Rush Limbaugh, the Palm Beach-based conservative talk radio icon, announced Friday that he is getting another divorce.
It was the third marriage for both Limbaugh, 53, and his 44-year-old wife, Marta, a native of Jacksonville. Limbaugh's latest marital difficulties come while he is under investigation by Palm Beach County prosecutors over allegations of illegal doctor-shopping for painkillers.
The couple's decision to end their 10-year marriage was mutual and amicable, and was unrelated to Limbaugh's admitted addiction to painkillers, said his spokesman, Tony Knight.
"He decided it would be better to make an announcement than to have his listeners and friends find out via some other source," Knight said.
Limbaugh hasn't filed for divorce yet, and Knight wasn't sure whether Marta had formally filed.
Marta Limbaugh could not be reached Friday. Her mother, Esther Seegert Peluso of Titusville, said she hadn't heard that Limbaugh and her daughter were separated and that she was surprised, given that they had celebrated their 10th anniversary just two weeks ago.
Limbaugh and the then-Marta Fitzgerald's love affair began in 1990 on the information superhighway. Going by the name of the "Jacksonville Jaguar," Fitzgerald contacted the talk show host through the CompuServe message network to ask his advice on how to challenge her President Reagan-bashing professor at the University of North Florida, where she was a student. Reaganhad once called Limbaugh "the No. 1 voice for conservatism in our country."
Fitzgerald's husband at the time, Tom Fitzgerald, said Limbaugh didn't respond to her first query. She got angry when she heard Limbaugh respond on the air to some flight attendants who had written wanting to meet him.
So she wrote Limbaugh a scathing letter, calling him pompous and telling him he was wasting his time, Fitzgerald told The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. This time, Limbaugh responded.
"That's how the whole relationship got started,'' Fitzgerald said. ''They started corresponding back and forth.''
Limbaugh escorted Marta, who was divorced from Fitzgerald in 1992, to the 1994 Super Bowl, Israel and New Orleans. He playfully hinted to radio listeners about his "Jaguar," and eventually Marta moved to New York, where Limbaugh owned an Upper West Side apartment.
The two were wed May 27, 1994, at the Virginia home of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who officiated. Attendees included former Education Secretary William Bennett, another family values advocate who later admitted to a multimillion-dollar gambling habit.
The couple found sanctuary from Limbaugh's critics and loyal admirers -- his dittoheads -- in a $24 million oceanfront mansion in Palm Beach. In 2000, Marta Fitzgerald bought a nearly $1.1 million pied-a-terre.
The commentator, born Rush "Rusty" Hudson Limbaugh III, often broadcasts his daily three-hour show from a studio in a commercial area of Palm Beach.
The decade-long marriage was the longest for Limbaugh, who once said he had little time for love because "I'm too much in love with myself."
carried on nearly 600 stations to 20 million listeners.
In October, as The National Enquirer prepared a front-page exclusive, "Rush Limbaugh Caught in Drug Ring," the talk show host announced he was entering a drug rehabilitation program because he was addicted to painkillers.
The previous evening, Limbaugh had resigned as an ESPN sports analyst, following mounting criticism over his TV comments that Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted a black quarterback to succeed.
At the same time, prosecutors here announced they were investigating whether Limbaugh illegally went "doctor-shopping" to obtain pain pills. The practice refers to visiting several doctors to receive duplicate prescriptions of controlled narcotics.
Limbaugh, who has not been charged with a crime, has repeatedly fought back against the charges and negative publicity he has received over the matter.
Last month, Limbaugh paid for full-page ads in The Palm Beach Post and theFort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel to attack prosecutors for what he called a politically motivated investigation. Limbaugh also regularly lashes out at prosecutors and reporters and defends himself during his show.
The criminal case against him is on hold pending a decision from the 4th District Court of Appeal. The court will decide whether the seizure of Limbaugh's medical records, which were taken by investigators in November, violated privacy laws.
Prosecutors say they need the records to determine whether to bring charges against Limbaugh.