Donald Trump awarded far-right radio show host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union address last night, an unprecedented move.
In the middle of his speech before Congress, Trump turned to Limbaugh and said: “Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis.”
“This is not good news,” Trump specified, “but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
Trump, who is clearly a fan of the Rush Limbaugh Show, praised Limbaugh’s “decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
Melania Trump put the medal around Limbaugh’s neck.
“I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Trump said.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, according to the executive order that created it, is for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Past recipients have included the Apollo 13 crew, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, as well as people in the media like Ellen Degeneres and Oprah Winfrey.
To say that Limbaugh has a history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric would be an understatement. Since he started broadcasting, he has used his platform extensively to denigrate LGBTQ people and advance anti-LGBTQ policies.
In 1989, he said that the best way to stop HIV was “do not ask another man to bend over and make love at the exit point. That’s what you don’t do.”
He spent the 90’s talking about AIDS and advocating less funding to fight the epidemic.
Limbaugh referred to the disease as “the only federally-protected virus.” He denounced spending money on “education, and condoms, and cucumbers and all that” because there was no “evidence that [HIV] was spreading to the heterosexual community, not sexually anyway.”
By the 2000’s, marriage equality became the target of his disdain.
“They seek to impose their perverted views, their depraved views on family and marriage,” he said, talking about marriage equality activists in 2010. “Marriage is a union of a man and a woman… This is about destroying an institution.”
He later said “we lost” the issue when the word marriage was “bastardized and redefined by simply adding words to it” like “gay marriage” or “straight marriage.”
“We allowed the argument to be made that the definition needed to change, on the basis that we’re dealing with something discriminatory, bigoted, and all of these mystical things that it’s not and never has been,” he said in 2013.
Limbaugh didn’t just oppose LGBTQ equality – he actually believed that gay people were out to get straight people.
He claimed in 2014, before marriage equality was even a reality in all of the U.S., that straight people were the real marginalized group: “They’re under assault. You say, ‘Heterosexuality may be 95, 98 percent of the population.’ They’re under assault by the two to five percent that are homosexual.”
He also said that there was a “movement on to normalize pedophilia” that was related to the movement for marriage equality. “The same things that were said about gay marriage,” he said in 2013, implying that there was a comparison between child molestation and two consenting adults of the same sex getting married.
His comments weren’t always directly about policy. Some were just insults. Limbaugh is the person who created the term “feminazi” to refer to supporters of women’s equality, and in 2013 he said of former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who is gay: “Isn’t it an established fact that Barney Frank himself spends most of his time living around Uranus?”
Even recently, his show was used to promote anti-LGBTQ views. A guest host on his show this past January said that Pete Buttigieg has a “non-gay look” and might be faking his sexual orientation.
Limbaugh is also well known for his demeaning comments about Black people – from calling former President Barack Obama “Barack the Magic Negro” to saying that the NBA was filled with “thugs” like “the Crips and the Bloods” to literally calling Michelle Obama “uppity” – and women – like when he called then 12-year-old Chelsea Clinton a “dog” and when he repeatedly attacked Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” because she used birth control – as well as other groups – like when he made fun of Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s Disease, for shaking.
Ironically, Melania Trump, who bestowed the award on Limbaugh, has spent her time as First Lady advancing her “Be Best” campaign, which is about stopping bullying.