News & Politics

Double Standards on Rush Limbaugh's Presidential Medal of Freedom

U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Vice President Joe Biden REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

When President Donald Trump surprised Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday, Democrats and liberals lost it. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) called it “nauseating,” complaining that the award essentially equated Limbaugh with Rosa Parks. Joe Biden called Limbaugh a racist but failed to mention a single episode of supposed racism. Historian Jon Meacham called the award “the absolute apotheosis of reflexive partisanship.”

Yes, Rush Limbaugh has said offensive things and made some unsubstantiated claims, as The Washington Post loves to remind its readers. But President Barack Obama did not draw similar outrage from the legacy media when he presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to celebrities who wrote big checks to his campaign. Many of the liberal actors and talk show hosts Obama honored with this award have made offensive comments just like Rush Limbaugh.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a president can bestow on a civilian, was instituted by President John F. Kennedy. Obama awarded the most such medals of any president, giving out 123. Many of Obama’s recipients arguably deserved the award, including Bill and Melinda Gates, John Glenn, Stephen Hawking, Sandra Day O’Connor, and Sidney Poitier. Obama also gave the award to Republicans like former President George H.W. Bush.

Yet a surprisingly large number of Obama’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients turned out to be campaign donors for both Obama and his hand-picked successor, Hillary Clinton. At least 17 of his donors received the honor, including tennis star Billie Jean King, author Toni Morrison, former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, actress Meryl Streep, musician Stevie Wonder, actress Barbara Streisand, director Stephen Spielberg, singer/songwriter James Taylor, actor Tom Hanks, basketball legend Michael Jordan, actor Robert De Niro, singer/singwriter Bruce Springsteen, the aforementioned Gateses, talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, and architect Frank Gehry.

The former president seems to have had a penchant for awarding celebrities. In addition to those previously mentioned, he awarded Robert Redford, Vin Scully, Gloria Estefan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and more.

Obama also awarded Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected leader in America — and a man credibly accused of statutory rape against a 16-year-old boy when he was in his 30s, as Matt Margolis has pointed out, both here on PJ Media and in his book The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama.

Obama awarded America’s highest civilian honor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2010, five years after her election. Was this just a friendly gesture, or did Obama receive something in return?

It also seems particularly rich for Joe Biden to complain about Limbaugh’s medal when the former vice president received one himself.

Yes, America’s first black president also awarded the honor to his vice president, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. — mere days before Trump’s inauguration! Only one president had previously given the medal to his sitting vice president: Gerald Ford gave it to Nelson Rockefeller after Rockefeller agreed to serve as vice president after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace following the devastating Watergate scandal.

If Obama gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Robert De Niro, Trump can give it to the “oh so offensive” Rush Limbaugh. De Niro has launched into many profanity-laced tirades against Trump, most recently saying he wants to “see a bag of sh*t” in the president’s face. He has called Trump a “white supremacist” and said the president tends toward fascism. His attacks on Trump date back at least as far as 2011, and in 2012 he received a rebuke from Michelle Obama’s staff for a racially-charged joke at a fundraiser, four years before receiving the medal.

Rush Limbaugh is no mere conservative pundit. The trailblazing AM radio personality has influenced talk radio and conservatism for a generation, and millions are indebted to him — even liberal radio hosts who may hate his guts.

Limbaugh also made Trump palatable when conservatives like yours truly stubbornly refused to get on board. As my colleague, Jim Treacher, puts it, “as a RINO cuck traitor who probably wanted Hillary to win,” I was most unhappy with Rush backing the blustering New York billionaire. I am very happy to admit I was wrong — although I had good reasons to distrust Trump until he started fulfilling his promises as president.

Contrary to much liberal gnashing of teeth, Trump did not sully the Presidential Medal of Freedom by awarding it to Rush Limbaugh. As with so many supposed Trump scandals, Obama actually did the thing Trump is accused of doing, and far worse than what Trump did.

Limbaugh is a giant, and his accomplishments deserve to be rewarded. If Obama can use it to reward his donors, his European allies, and his vice president (on one of his last days in office), Trump can use it to honor the radio giant Rush Limbaugh.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.