ZWEIFEL COLUMN: Rush Limbaugh couldn't be less deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
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ZWEIFEL COLUMN: Rush Limbaugh couldn't be less deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Among my Chicago Cubs memorabilia is a picture of Barack Obama bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom on baseball legend Ernie Banks.

Ernie, in addition to his sterling baseball career that got him elected to the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, was known for his work with Chicago kids of color and helping raise money to build youth baseball facilities in areas of the city that had none.

“Mr. Cub,” as he had become known, was picked for the medal for his sports endeavors, just as were Willie Mays, Bill Russell and other athletes of note. They were not in the same category of a Rosa Parks or an Elie Wiesel or a Mother Teresa and scores of others who were awarded the Medal of Freedom, but their accomplishments contributed to the “cultural or other significant public or private endeavors” that the medal is supposed to represent.

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t deserve to be in their midst. Donald Trump’s decision to award Limbaugh the medal in front of a State of the Union audience, no less, disrespects everyone who has been honored by presidents since John F. Kennedy initiated the award in 1963, the year he was assassinated.

“What’s next?” asked Washington Post Jennifer Rubin, who is often identified as a conservative columnist. “Giving the Presidential Medal of Freedom to David Duke?”

Yes, the king of right-wing radio blowhards, Limbaugh has a bad case of cancer and, as Rubin herself pointed out, “any decent person should hope he has a full recovery.”

But as she and others have observed, his health problems do not excuse his career of hate-filled racism, homophobia and misogyny, elevating him to deserve a Medal of Freedom.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Limbaugh mocked Michael J. Fox for a commercial the actor made for Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill, who was a big supporter of stem cell research.

Limbaugh claimed Fox was faking the effects of his Parkinson’s disease.

“He can control himself enough to keep his eyes right on the lens, the teleprompter.” Limbaugh proclaimed. “But his head and shoulders are moving all over the place. This is really shameless, folks. This is really shameless of Michael J. Fox. Either he didn’t take his medication or he’s acting.”

Video shows Limbaugh mimicking and exaggerating Fox’s movements, dismissing another man’s health condition. Oh, for sure, give this honorable man a Medal of Freedom.

Limbaugh has frequently called women “feminazis,” he accused a university law student who was arguing for free contraceptives a “slut” and “prostitute,” he compared an adolescent Chelsea Clinton to a dog, he said feminism was founded to allow “unattractive women easier access to the mainstream,” he referred to Barack Obama as a “Halfrican American” and played a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” and he insisted that the heavily African American National Basketball Association be renamed the TBA for Thug Basketball Association.

And, of course, Rush was right there with his boy and golfing buddy Donald Trump insisting that Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

Naturally, a lot of Republicans thought making him a medal winner was just great. Ohio’s U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, unfortunately a UW-Madison grad, called Limbaugh getting the medal one of “the things that make America great,” and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy called the honor “well-deserved.”

Pardon me while I throw up.

Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. He can be reached by email at dzweifel@madison.com and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.

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