Things move fast in Trump World. It was only a week ago that we gathered for what was supposed to be Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJulian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Overnight Energy & Environment — League of Conservation Voters — Climate summit chief says US needs to 'show progress' on environment Five takeaways from Arizona's audit results MORE’s third State of the Union address. It turned out to be anything but.
What we experienced on Feb. 4 was no State of the Union address. It was, instead, half Trump campaign rally, led by sycophant Republican senators chanting “Four more years,” and half Trump reality TV show, with the orange-haired P.T. Barnum using props in the gallery to stage every stunt he could imagine – all of it punctuated by a pack of lies, too many to keep track of, from the podium.
But the lies weren’t the worst part of the evening. By far the lowest and most disgusting part of Trump’s three-ring circus was his awarding the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rush Limbaugh, who represents the very worst, not the best of America.
For me, this is personal. Having spent half of my professional career as a radio host, I consider talk radio the most influential of all media platforms with the power to entertain, to inform and to inspire. Unfortunately, Limbaugh has used his bully pulpit to do nothing but bully.
Believe me, I know. For years I followed Limbaugh on KFI-AM in Los Angeles. He spewed so much bile, his personal attacks were so ugly, I felt like the guy walking behind the elephants in the circus parade, sweeping up the stink they left behind.
For decades, Rush has been the voice of racism on talk radio. He was Trump before Trump. He mocked candidate Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE as “Barack the Magic Negro.” Along with Trump, he promoted the racist birther theory that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. On July 6, 2010, Limbaugh insisted that Obama was only elected president because he was black. “If Obama weren’t black,” said Trump’s Medal of Freedom winner, “he’d be a tour guide in Honolulu.” Limbaugh also suggested that “The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies.” In effect, Limbaugh endorsed white supremacists: “If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it’s Caucasians.” And in 2003 he was forced to resign as an ESPN commentator after he said Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was considered successful only because “the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well.”
When he was not degrading people of color, Rush was downgrading women. He slammed female activists as “feminazis,” insisting that “Feminism was established so that unattractive ugly broads could have easy access to the mainstream.” He called Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and “prostitute” for supporting birth control legislation. He even downplayed evidence of sexual assault: “If the left ever senses and smells that there’s no consent in part of the equation, then here come the rape police.”
Since it was created by President John F. Kennedy, many outstanding individuals have been honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, Colin PowellColin Luther PowellCivil rights museum to honor Michelle Obama, Poor People's Campaign In Afghanistan, lines between aid and government agendas are blurred The Powell Doctrine could have helped us avoid the Afghanistan debacle MORE and Billy Graham. Rush Limbaugh does not deserve to be in their company. Yes, it’s sad that he’s been diagnosed with cancer. We pray for his complete recovery. But that doesn’t erase a lifetime of hatred and bigotry.
Put it this way. There were two men in the House chamber that night: Rush Limbaugh and the brave 100-year-old Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee. The wrong one went home wearing the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Who’s next? David Duke?
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”