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Florida governor creates political furor for lowering American flag to honor Limbaugh

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to lower American flags to half-staff to honor late conservative radio host has met aggressive pushback from some Florida public officials.

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In this Feb. 4, 2020 file photo, Rush Limbaugh reacts as First Lady Melania Trump, and his wife Kathryn, applaud, as President Donald Trump announces he will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he wants to lower American flags in the state to half-staff to honor Limbaugh, who died Feb. 17.

Patrick Semansky, Associated Press file photo

Even in death, Rush Limbaugh is spurring conversation and controversy.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis posted a photo on Twitter Wednesday of an American flag lowered to half-staff over the state Capitol building with a caption that read “Rush R.I.P.”

The governor had said last week he had intended for American flags to be lowered in the Sunshine State to honor the late conservative radio host and Palm Beach resident.

“I know they’re still figuring out the arrangements — but what we do when there’s things this magnitude — once the date of internment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff,” DeSantis said at a press conferences Friday, reported Tampa’s WFLA News Channel 8. The audience attending the press conference applauded his announcement.

Limbaugh, 70, died Feb. 17 after a battle with lung cancer. His wife, Kathryn, announced the talk show host’s death on his show last week.

In the announcement of her husband’s death, Kathryn Limbaugh said “losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life,” Fox News reported. “Rush will forever be the greatest of all time.”

She said Monday that a virtual “celebration of life that will be able to be viewed by all of the audience and friends and extended family”was being planned, but a date had not been determined, according to Fox News.

Florida went to former President Donald Trump in the last election and is now home to Trump, who honored Limbaugh with a Presidential Medal of Freedom. But DeSantis’ announcement Friday has led to an outcry from some Florida public officials who say they would not be lowering flags at their government buildings or in their cities for the oft-controversial and divisive broadcaster.

In a statement posted to Twitter Tuesday evening, Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said the county would not be lowering its courthouse flag

“The lowering of flags should be a unifying gesture during solemn occasions, such as in remembrance of the young lives lost during the Parkland High School massacre or first responder line of duty deaths,” McKinlay, a Democrat, said in the statement. “Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions. I cannot and will not support the lowering of flags in his memory.”

Although U.S. flag code gives governors the power to lower flags to half-staff for “fallen state officials, politicians, service members and first responders,” there are no federal or Florida state laws that prevent DeSantis from honoring Limbaugh in that way, Tallahassee news station WCTV reported.

In a tweet Monday, Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, said she wouldn’t be following DeSantis’s lead.

“I will not lower the flags at my Department’s state offices for Rush Limbaugh. Lowering our flag should reflect unity, not division — and raising our standards, not lowering them,” the commissioner said.

Christian Ziegler, the vice chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, said Fried was just seeking to “secure political points from her far-left base,” the Tallahassee Democrat reported.

“Recognizing a Floridian who was a pioneer in radio, and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor,” is the right thing to do, Zeigler added.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., called on mayors in Florida to defy the governor’s decision to lower flags on behalf of Limbaugh.

“Rush Limbaugh spent his career normalizing and popularizing hatred and bigotry against people of color, immigrants, women and the LGBTQ+ community. He built a brand around disgusting insults, bolstering rape culture, spewing lies about the AIDS crisis and nonstop bullying,” wrote Wasserman Schultz in a letter to local mayors, Brietbart reported.

“As we work to heal the nation, we cannot elevate a person credited for fostering our divisions and emboldening the worst tendencies of human nature,” she added.

Some Florida mayors were already on board with the congresswoman.

“Not lowering flags for Rush. In St. Pete we don’t honor hatred, racism, bigotry, homophobia, or anything else he has spewed over the years,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Twitter Monday.

Kriseman, a Democrat, added that flags would be lowered to “honor the life” of a sheriff’s deputy who was killed during a car chase last week.

Tallahassee’s WCTV hosted a poll on their website, asking if flags in state should be “lowered to half-staff in honor of Rush Limbaugh?” By Tuesday evening, two-thirds of the respondents had voted “No.”