opinion

OPINION: Awarding the Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh is an affront to Americans



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Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh introduces President Donald Trump at Turning Point USA Student Action Summit Dec. 21, 2019, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. Tribune News Service

Just minutes after recognizing Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, President Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, to one of America’s most well-known bigots, Rush Limbaugh.

Trump said he gave the award at his Tuesday State of the Union address in recognition of the people who are inspired by him as well as his work for charity.

What Trump is really doing is legitimizing a platform that systematically attacks the most vulnerable members of our society and does so with incredible nationalistic zeal. Awarding Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom validates his hateful rhetoric as soundly as Trump saying the words himself

John F. Kennedy established the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 to honor Americans who have significantly and positively contributed to the security, peacefulness and culture of America. Past recipients have ranged from Toni Morrison to Bob Dylan to Madeleine Albright to Ellen DeGeneres. 

Limbaugh is the antithesis of those stated values. He has dedicated his decades-long tenure as a radio host to being hell-bent on spreading vitriolic xenophobia and patently racist rhetoric — something that's right up our president’s alley. 

Limbaugh argued in 2013 that white people shouldn’t be held responsible for the institution of slavery. "It's preposterous that Caucasians are blamed for slavery when they've done more to end it than any other race," he said. "If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians."

Limbaugh lauded the president’s “brilliant stratagem to flood sanctuary cities with these immigrants” in April 2019. He referred to the number of immigrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border as an “invasion,” comparing it to D-Day in June 2019.  He was — and presumably still is — of the belief that Democrats support sanctuary cities in an effort to expand their voting power in historically red states.

Trump told two stories in his Tuesday address painting “illegal immigrants” as violent criminals propped up by the Democratic Party. The first story involved the case of a man in New York who was charged with raping and murdering a 92-year-old woman after being released by the New York Police Department following an arrest for assault. Trump claimed that “If the city had honored ICE's detainer request, his victim would be alive today.”

Later in his speech, the president introduced his guest Jody Jones, whose brother Rocky was killed by an undocumented immigrant in California in 2018.

While racist threads run through Trump’s entire presidency, it is acts like honoring Limbaugh that really solidify his bigoted intent. The president gets major backlash over referring to nations as “shithole countries” or comments such as “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

But Limbaugh has been saying these things for almost 50 years, and awarding Limbaugh for it says it all without Trump having to make any of the statements himself. It’s not sneaky, but it is effective in getting his point across.

In awarding Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom, Trump sent a powerful message. He placed his, and by extension the nation’s, stamp of approval on Limbaugh’s entire platform.

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