After news broke that iconic conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh died after suffering from lung cancer, former Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill decided to weigh in.
“So is Rush Limbaugh going to go down in history as the worst person to ever receive the presidential medal of freedom or is there someone else?” Hill tweeted after reports that Limbaugh had passed away on Wednesday.
So is Rush Limbaugh going to go down in history as the worst person to ever receive the presidential medal of freedom or is there someone else?
— Katie Hill (@KatieHill4CA) February 17, 2021
The comment elicited blowback from conservatives who pointed out two recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Obama.
Greg Price of The Daily Caller noted, “Ted Kennedy left a woman to drown in a lake and Obama gave him the presidential medal of freedom.” T. Becket Adams of The Washington Examiner echoed the point.
Ted Kennedy left a woman to drown in a lake and Obama gave him the presidential medal of freedom https://t.co/qSSFWMSXD0
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) February 17, 2021
well, considering ted kennedy, who killed a woman and got away with it, is a recipient, i’d say no. https://t.co/quKaelEduE
— tsar becket adams (@BecketAdams) February 18, 2021
Podcast host Gerry Callahan noted another Obama recipient: “Let me guess: You think he’s worse than Bill Cosby?”
Let me guess: You think he's worse than Bill Cosby? https://t.co/BD8bFbc4Ht
— Gerry Callahan (@GerryCallahan) February 17, 2021
Trump announced that Limbaugh was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom at his last State of the Union address in February 2020. With Limbaugh in the audience, Trump stated:
Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Here tonight is a special man, beloved by millions of Americans, who just received a stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet. Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country. [Applause].
And Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. I will now ask the First Lady of the United States to present you with the honor. Please.
When Limbaugh returned to his radio show later that week, he offered some of the backstory about his appearance at the SOTU:
I know many of you want to know the story of the State of the Union address on Tuesday night and how that all happened, and someday I hope to be able to tell you the entire story. I can’t tell you the entire story now without divulging medical details that I, frankly, don’t want to give. I don’t want to give people an opportunity to start investigating and writing about and pronouncing opinions and this kind of thing. People know enough about what I have.
It’s late stage. It’s advanced lung cancer. But there’s good news associated with the diagnosis and the treatment. …
And, folks, I don’t know if I should — I’m gonna go ahead and tell you this. I realize that it’s gonna open the floodgates of a bunch of people in the media, but, at this stage, I don’t care. I never have cared, and I’m not gonna start caring now what they say. One of the reasons I was reluctant was I just wasn’t sure I deserved this. I mean, it’s the highest civilian honor that the country awards.
It’s the exact same award that Congress gives, the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, it’s the exact same thing. There are different requirements. Military people who qualify are awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor with sometimes a ceremony at the White House. But this is the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And there was a part of me, I’m a radio talk show host, and I sit here behind this microphone and I talk. And this is, by the way, nothing new.
I remember when I was at the National Review 50th anniversary dinner in Washington — some of you will remember this story — I’m sitting at Mr. Buckley’s table, and a man walks up to me who has been severely wounded in battle. And he asks if I could come over to his table to meet others at his table who also have been wounded. So I did.
I got over there, and I was listening to these guys who have nearly died defending the country, telling me how much they enjoy listening to my program and all that. I said to these guys, “You know… (sigh) I don’t know, guys. You’ve faced bullets, almost died. I sit behind a microphone in an enclosed room and talk.” The leader of the Wounded Warriors said, “Sir, we all have our role,” and I’ve never forgotten that.
And I remember when I started questioning, “Gee, is this something I really have earned or deserved?” I remembered that statement from that really severely wounded warrior. “We all have our roles.” And then I said, “I can’t react to this in a way that diminishes their appreciation. I can’t sit here and say, ‘Oh, come on, guys. You know, I’m not worth this.’ I can’t do that. It means everything in the world to them that they came over and wanted to tell me this. So, you can’t phony up the humility and act that way.’” …
I’ve never been in the gallery. Oh, I have in the Senate, never in the House. I have seen the House Chamber from floor level. You’re not allowed to go out there if you’re not a member, and it was pretty full by the time we got there at 8:30, and all the Republicans are just… They’re looking up and they’re waving, thumbs up. It was so inspiring and gratifying and there was just a…
If you can imagine an envelope or like a wave of warmth that just swept over me sitting there. Every Republican congressman, every senator, every… I’m looking down there. And then to see the Democrats not doing a thing and they’re dressed in all white and so forth. It was just a moving, moving night, and I’m sitting there. I can’t believe we’re there, can’t believe it happened, can’t believe it all came together — and then, it happened.
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