At tonight’s State of the Union address, President Donald Trump awarded conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Limbaugh’s bombastic style is credited with revitalizing, even creating, the right-wing talk radio juggernaut that fed into the rise of Fox News and other conservative news and conspiratorial outlets.
Earlier this week, Limbaugh revealed that he has been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. The announcement prompted waves of sympathy for Limbaugh.
Tonight, Trump surprised Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in an unprecedented move during the State of the Union address.
The Medal of Freedom was re-established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. Previous recipients include Muhammad Ali, Angela Merkel, Nancy Reagan, Mother Teresa, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Although most have kept the negativity to a minimum out of consideration for Limbaugh’s condition, Trump placing the shock jock among this roster of honorees prompted a wave of criticisms. Limbaugh infamously said hungry children should “dumpster dive,” called them “wanton little waifs and serfs dependent on the state,” and called a Georgetown University Law Center student who advocated for contraceptive coverage a “slut” and “prostitute.”
To many, the move cheapened the honor.
“Who gets a Medal of [Freedom] next? David Fucking Duke? This is total bullshit,” tweeted one critic. Another said it was “unbelievable” that the man “who once joked about slaves being thrown overboard to feed sharks” would receive the medal bestowed on some of the most celebrated figures in American life, such as Aretha Franklin, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and journalist William F. Buckley Jr.
Comedian John Fugelsang pointed out that Limbaugh called then-13-year-old Chelsea Clinton a “dog” on live television in 1993.
David Corn of Mother Jones and MSNBC noted, “[Trump] just gave the nation’s highest civilian award to a man who has a long and demonstrable record of misogynistic and racist comments.”
Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient pic.twitter.com/wkqyT0zd0C— Jason Campbell (@JasonSCampbell) February 5, 2020
Rush Limbaugh called a Georgetown student a "slut" and a "prostitute" because she advocated for the insurance coverage of birth control. Trump just gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.— Laura Bassett (@LEBassett) February 5, 2020
Can’t find the words to express my pain and disgust at seeing Rush Limbaugh receive the nation’s highest honor in the house that my ancestors built. But in their name, I say that this is not the end. We will overcome this hate and live to see a better day. This too shall pass.— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) February 5, 2020
Only one thing to say about Rush Limbaugh getting a Presidential Medal if Freedom at The State of the Union: I loathe this fucking man.— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) February 5, 2020
I'm sorry Rush is ill & I'll pray for him, but as an entertainer who's made millions, he's a totally inappropriate recipient of the medal of honor. And Rush is helping to harm America by supporting Trump. For that he shouldn't be forgiven.— Teri Adams (@Teri_A_Adams) February 5, 2020
Rush Limbaugh just received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Anyone who doesn’t believe in alternative universes totally has to believe in them now.— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) February 5, 2020
Just reliving the memories of that time Rush Limbaugh made up a story about me posing nude at 14. Good times. https://t.co/7kd7apAQgT— Krystal Ball (@krystalball) February 5, 2020
Rush Limbaugh's FB fan page (730k followers) has personally attacked me -by name- multiple times in targeted harassment campaigns based on clickbait BS articles. For 30+ years he & his fans traffic in fear, anger, & bigotry, making our world worse. He does not deserve that medal.— megan squire (@MeganSquire0) February 5, 2020
Don’t you dare invoke Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, during black history month, after honoring that racist Limbaugh. I’m disgusted. #StateOfTheUnion— Charles M. Blow (@CharlesMBlow) February 5, 2020
Limbaugh now joins Elvis Presley and Tiger Woods as people who have received the Medal of Freedom from Trump.