Rush Limbaugh’s medal of freedom award: What to know about nation’s highest civilian honor
By now you've likely already heard about President Trump's choice of Rush Limbaugh for the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
This award, the nation's highest civilian honor, was either long overdue or forever disgraced, depending on your opinion of both Limbaugh and Trump. You can't like or dislike one without the other.
But no matter your position, or how entrenched, you'll be in a stronger position to explain it to those who disagree with you if you know more about the award, why it's given, who has received it, and from whom.
Who is eligible for the Medal of Freedom?
This award can be given to anyone, from any country, alive or dead, as long as the president of the United States decides that the honoree has 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," according its official description.
Limbaugh is now in company with Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Cesar Chavez and Dr. Hector P. Garcia, to name only a few.
He's also in the company of Bill Cosby, who wasn't a convicted sex offender at the time; Dick Cheney, architect of the Iraq WMD subterfuge; and confessed spy Whittaker Chambers. So it cuts more than a few ways.
The Medal of Honor's history
President Kennedy established it in 1963. It replaced the Medal of Freedom established by President Truman in 1945 to honor civilian World War II service.
All recipients fit in one or more of the following categories: architecture, art, dance, movies and theater, literature, music, photography, business and economics, computing, education, history, humanitarianism, law (subgroups attorneys and judges, Supreme Court justices), media (subgroups print journalism, radio and television, medicine, military, philanthropy, philosophy, politics and government (subgroups activism, diplomacy, environmentalism, intelligence, foreign statesmen and stateswomen, U.S. Cabinet, first ladies, members of Congress, presidents, vice presidents, other political figures), religion, science, space exploration, and sports.
Trump's favorite category
Trump has given the award to seven sports figures, two from law, and one each in music, business/economics, radio (Limbaugh), philanthropy, Cabinet and Congress.
If you think Trump's picks are heavy on sports, you should know that one of his two law recipients is retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice Alan Page — better known as an NFL Hall of Famer and a key member of the fierce Minnesota Vikings defensive line nicknamed the Purple People Eaters.
Texas' Prential Medal of Freedom recipients
Medal of Honor recipients from Texas:
Dr. Garcia wore the medal proudly in public rather than leave it in a box at home. Other recipients from Texas or with a strong Texas connection include writer J. Frank Dobie of Live Oak County; writer James Michener, who wrote a long novel titled "Texas" and lived out his twilight years in Austin; pianist Van Cliburn; Litton Industries founder Tex Thornton; journalist William S. White; broadcaster Walter Cronkite; cardiologists Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley; San Antonio-born Mario G. Obledo, known as the Godfather of the Latino Movement; former ambassador to the Soviet Union and later Russia Robert Strauss; former ambassador to Great Britain Anne Armstrong of Kenedy County; former Defense Secretary and Texas A&M University president Robert Gates; Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson; Barbara Jordan; Lloyd Bentsen; President George H.W. Bush; Walt Rostow; and Roger Staubach.
Staubach, Dallas Cowboys quarterback and Vietnam veteran whose Naval Academy commitment delayed the start of his career for five years, is the only Texas resident chosen by Trump. Every president since Ford should have done it.
Why Rush Limbaugh?
Limbaugh, the combative talk radio host, is equal parts hero of the political right and villain of the left. His selection was guaranteed to please the right and dismay the left. As a statement, the choice of Limbaugh for this medal was akin to his pardoning of former Maricopa County, Arizona, sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Limbaugh announced Monday, the day before he received the award at the State of the Union address, that he has stage 4 lung cancer, a dire prognosis. Critics did not let sympathy for his predicament hold them back, saying he deserved affordable health care, not a medal.
Limbaugh is widely known for labeling women's rights advocates "feminazis," for calling women's contraceptive care advocate Susan Fluke a prostitute and a slut, for comparing asylum seekers massing at the U.S. border a "Normandy invasion," and for accusing actor Michael J. Fox of faking the symptoms of his Parkinson's disease.
Here, in Trump's words to Limbaugh while Limbaugh sat next to first lady Melania Trump during the State of the Union, is why the president chose him:
"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."