The presidential Medal of Freedom was established by John F. Kennedy in 1963 as the highest civilian award in the United States.
It is bestowed by the president of the United States to those who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
The 600-plus people who have received this award are among the greatest performers, humanitarians, and athletes who ever lived.
They include artists (Norman Rockwell, Georgia O'Keeffe), cinematic geniuses (Walt Disney, John Wayne, Sidney Poitier, Steven Spielberg), musicians (Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Frank Sinatra), activists (Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk), religious figures (Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul the II, and Rev. Billy Graham) athletes (Jesse Owens, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan), business people and economists (Henry Ford II, Milton Friedman, and Warren Buffett), and even some presidents (John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton).
Ronald Reagan giving the honor to Mother Teresa.
Barack Obama bestowing the honor on Tom Hanks.
George H.W. Bush presenting the honor to Ronald Reagan.
President Trump has given the medal to a mostly deserving group of honorees, including businessman Roger S. Penske, conservative policy expert Edwin Meese III, pitcher Mariano Rivera, NBA legend Jerry West, Boston Celtic great Bob Cousy, economist Arthur B. Laffer, golfer Tiger Woods, philanthropist Miriam Adelson (wife of prominent Trump donor Sheldon Adelson), Senator Orrin Hatch, Justice Alan Page, singer Elvis Presley, baseball legend "Babe" Ruth, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and quarterback Roger Staubach.
But on February 4 at Trump's State of the Union address, he gave the award to a man who many feel is unworthy of such an honor: radio broadcaster Rush Limbaugh.
Obviously, Trump's embrace of Limbaugh comes from the right-wing talk show host's support of Trump since he won election in 2016. Not because of any "meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
"Rush, in recognition of all you have done for our nation, the millions of people today that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight he will be receiving our country's highest — you will be receiving our country's highest civilian honor, the presidential medal of freedom," Trump said.
Limbaugh announced on his show this week that he has advanced lung cancer.
While Limbaugh's health issue is nothing to celebrate, it is fair to criticize President Trump for honoring a man who has used his considerable platform to spew bigotry.
Here are just a few of Limbaugh's disgusting quotes.
"Take the bone out of your nose and call me back." — Limbaugh to an African American caller, 1990
"You just gotta be who you are, and 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," — Limbaugh, 2004
"Hu Jintao was just going, 'Ching cha. Ching chang cho chow. Cha chow. Ching cho. Chi ba ba ba. Kwo kwa kwa kee." Limbaugh continued this at length, then said, "Nobody was translating, but that's the closest I can get." — Limbaugh mocking the President of China, 2011
"So she's out tweeting and politicizing, and she is free to lie and say whatever she wants to say about climate change and who's responsible for it. And nobody is permitted to question her, you see, because she has — what did they call it? She is in the autism spectrum, so you can't disagree, you can't question, because she's not well." — Limbaugh on Greta Thunberg, 2019
Limbaugh also promoted Birtherism, the racist conspiracy theory that suggests Barack Obama was born in Kenya.
"He's got a grandmother or aunt in Kenya who said she saw him born there," Lumbaugh said. "One of Obama's relatives, aunt or grandmother, swears that he was born in Kenya. She saw it. She was there at the birth."
He also referred to Obama as the "affirmative action candidate" and repeatedly played a song called "Barack the Magic Negro" on his show.
He even went so far is to say that white people shouldn't feel bad about 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."
Trump's bestowing of the highest civilian honor in America to a bigot is just another way that he has cheapened the office of president. In doing so, he also cheapens to honor for the hundreds of people who have received the honor the past and the countless who will do so in the future.
When America honors those who stand against its basic principles, it weakens the country as a whole. How much further does Trump have to erode the country's moral authority until none is left?
Rush Limbaugh was given the Medal of Freedom at the State of the Union last night. Here's a bit on who he is.
Viewer discretion is advised. pic.twitter.com/rWYbfnDThl
— Media Matters (@mmfa) February 5, 2020
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