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Trump honors Rush Limbaugh, enraging liberals

Some laud the longtime conservative radio icon’s philanthropy, while others call him racist

Rush Limbaugh reacts after first lady Melania Trump presented him with the the Presidential Medal of Freedom as President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Karen Pence is at left and Kathryn Limbaugh is partially hidden.
Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — To the horror of liberals across the nation, President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh during the State of the Union address Tuesday night, a day after Limbaugh announced publicly he’d been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

First lady Melania Trump placed the medal around the visibly emotional Limbaugh’s neck.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal are the two highest civilian honors bestowed by politicians. The presidential honor was established by John F. Kennedy and is awarded to individuals deemed to have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States or world peace or cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House.

The Washington Post’s Timothy Bella noted that “Liberals were outraged, much to the glee of Limbaugh’s many admirers on the right. ‘Forcing a room full of Democrats to have to watch Rush Limbaugh receive the medal of honor is the greatest own the libs moment in American history and I loved every second of it,’ Andrew Surabian, a GOP strategist, said in a tweet that has since been removed.”

In announcing the honor, the president acknowledged Limbaugh’s recent diagnosis of advanced lung cancer: ”This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet,” Trump said.

He told Limbaugh he was bestowing the honor to recognize ”all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and you inspire and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity,” Trump said.

While a divisive political voice, Limbaugh has long been lauded for his philanthropy. In 2008, the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, which looks at documented charitable giving by famous individuals, ranked Limbaugh the No. 4 most generous celebrity for “donating $4.2 million, or approximately 13% of the $33 million he earned last year, to the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, a charity that helps support the children of Marines or federal law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.”

He’s made other large documented donations to charity, including a recent $500,000 gift to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Palm Beach, Florida.

Twitter lit up with criticism of the honor. NewsOne sourced a list of “racist” comments Limbaugh has reportedly made in the past.

Bella cited a tweet by the Rev. William J. Barber II: “I pray for Rush Limbaugh as he faces stage 4 lung cancer,” he said of the award, “but it’s also a lie to say he is America’s greatest fighter for our ideals and that a man who has spewed racism & division deserves the Medal of Freedom.”

Some on Twitter said the medal no longer holds meaning. Others found the honor laudable.

Limbaugh is not the first radio host to be so honored. George W. Bush awarded a Presidential Medal of Freedom to Paul Harvey in 2005 and Lowell Thomas received one from Gerald Ford in 1977. First ladies, philosophers, Cabinet members, foreign statesmen, pastors, politicians, writers, astronauts, activists and athletes are among the categories of people who have been honored.

Previous honorees have run a broad gamut that includes Walt Disney, Helen Keller, Neil Armstrong, Rosa Parks, Colin Powell, Jonas Salk and Mr. Rogers, among hundreds of others. Tom Brokaw and Michael Jordan each have a medal. So does Meryl Streep. Bill Cosby has one, too.

Former presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan each bestowed more than 100 of the medals during their terms in office. Presidents from both parties have awarded the medals to their political allies over the years, according to The New York Times, as the president did not long ago with Miriam Adelson, a doctor and philanthropist who is married to Sheldon Adelson, casino owner and multibillionaire and one of the president’s financial backers. President Trump honored Elvis Presley and Babe Ruth at the same time.