In September, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the flags at public buildings to be flown at half-staff to honor deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In January, he did the same for the police victims of the Capitol riot.
On Friday, DeSantis said flags would come down once again in honor of Rush Limbaugh, the divisive radio personality who died earlier this week.
“What we do when there’s things of this magnitude, once the date of internment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff,” DeSantis said at a political rally Friday in West Palm Beach.
Limbaugh, 70, died Wednesday of lung cancer. In 2020, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump, and he was regarded by fans as the embodiment of the conservative ethos. For decades, the radio host and Palm Beach resident railed against the American left, giving an unfiltered conservative viewpoint to millions of devoted listeners.
Liberals disliked him, and the right loved him for that.
“Rush busted through a media landscape in which a handful of media outlets served up pre-cooked, liberal narratives,” DeSantis said in a statement earlier this week. “Rush is the [greatest of all time] — of radio, of conservative media and of inspiring a loyal army of American patriots.”
To his detractors, Limbaugh was a symbol of the American id. His show was often sexist, racist and homophobic. He championed the distortions of fact that leaders on the right were peddling on a given day. He made fun of AIDS victims; he called then-12-year-old Chelsea Clinton the “White House dog;” he was a vociferous backer of President George W. Bush’s Iraq War; he said Barack Obama wasn’t a U.S. citizen; he called for violence following the 2020 election Trump lost, fueling the animus that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.
Democratic lawmakers sharply criticized DeSantis’ decision.
“Rush Limbaugh weaponized his platform to spread racism, xenophobia and homophobia across the nation. His constant hateful rhetoric caused untold damage to our political landscape,” U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz tweeted Friday. “DeSantis’ decision to honor him is an embarrassment to Florida.”
According to the governor’s office’s Flag Protocol, the state flags are to be lowered on certain holidays honoring veterans; if a present or former governor of Florida dies; if an active service member from Florida dies; if a prominent state official dies; or if a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty.
A constituent may formally request that flags be lowered for another reason, but it’s unclear if that happened in this case. A DeSantis spokeswoman did not address this question in an emailed response.
DeSantis’ announcement about Limbaugh came at what his office touted as an “announcement” in West Palm Beach.
The event was a political rally. About 100 supporters, many of whom were not wearing masks in defiance of a local mask order, gathered at the airport Hilton hotel to hear DeSantis talk about election reforms he would support.
Although he said Florida had “the most transparent and efficient election anywhere in the country,” DeSantis said he still wants changes. Among them:
▪ He wants to make it so only people who request mail-in ballots for a given election season receive them. (That proposal is currently making its way through the Florida Legislature.)
▪ The governor called for an end to “ballot harvesting,” in which a person turns in the ballot of another person at a drop box or other location. (Unlike some other states, Florida law allows people to collect completed ballots as long as they are not paid to do so, except in Miami-Dade, and there is no limit to how many completed mail ballots one person can turn in.)
▪ Political parties must be allowed to witness the signature match process as ballots are counted. (Such concerns about lack of access were a major complaint of the Trump campaign in 2020; Trump’s objections were roundly rejected in court after court.)
Tampa Bay Times staff writer Allison Ross contributed to this report.