Not every Florida politician is looking to pay tribute to Rush Limbaugh.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Monday that she would disregard an order by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lower flags in the state to half-staff to pay tribute to Limbaugh, the conservative firebrand radio host who died last week after a battle with lung cancer.
“Lowering to half-staff the flag of the United States of America is a sacred honor that pays respect to fallen heroes and patriots. It is not a partisan political tool,” Fried, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Therefore, I will notify all state offices under my direction to disregard the Governor’s forthcoming order to lower flags for Mr. Limbaugh — because we will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division. Lowering the flag should always reflect unity, not division, and raising our standards, not lowering them. Our flags will remain flying high to celebrate the American values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.”
On Friday, DeSantis announced his decision to lower flags at government buildings in Florida to honor the man who made a career attacking Democratic politicians and policies. The flags, DeSantis said, would be lowered on the day that Limbaugh was laid to rest.
"When there’s things of this magnitude, once the date of interment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff," DeSantis said at a news conference in Palm Beach County.
Limbaugh was a close political ally of former President Donald Trump, who awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the talk radio host during the 2020 State of the Union address. DeSantis, who ran ads during his 2018 gubernatorial race proclaiming that he held views identical to Trump’s, expressed his personal fondness for Limbaugh on Friday.
“There’s not much that needs to be said, the guy was an absolute legend,” he said of Limbaugh, who resided in Palm Beach. “He was a friend of mine and just a great person.”
Fried reacted to DeSantis’s remarks on Twitter.
— Nikki Fried (@nikkifried) February 19, 2021
DeSantis is hardly alone in lavishing praise on Limbaugh. Numerous Republican lawmakers paid their respects to the host in the wake of his death.
Last week, Trump released a statement praising him.
"Rush was a patriot, a defender of Liberty, and someone who believed in all of the greatness our Country stands for," the former president said in his statement.
In a Monday op-ed published by Fox News, former Vice President Mike Pence said Limbaugh "gave voice to the ideals and values that made this country great; he inspired a generation of American conservatives; he reached men and women, young and old from every walk of life with his wit and wisdom, and he will be deeply missed."
For Democrats like Fried, Limbaugh's bigoted statements were impossible to dismiss. And on his final episodes he continued to push the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Trump.
In 2007 he aired a parody song titled "Barack, the Magic Negro," which poked fun at then-Sen. Barack Obama's sudden rise onto the national stage after a Black columnist for the Los Angeles Times referred to him as such. Earlier in Limbaugh's career, he often derided homosexuals. "When a gay person turns his back on you," he once said, "it is anything but an insult; it's an invitation."
In 2004, Limbaugh likened the NBA to criminal gangs. "I think it's time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call 'em gangs," he said. In 2013, he absolved white people of their role in slavery. "If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians," he said. "The white race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world."
He often took aim at feminists, as when he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" after she testified before Congress on the subject of universal medical coverage for birth control. Years earlier, Limbaugh wrote that feminism "was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society."
Fried is Florida's only statewide elected Democrat. Last month, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a close Trump ally, said he was considering challenging Fried in the 2022 elections.
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