He's been called "the most dangerous man in America." Now he has America's highest civilian honor.
At his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Trump awarded the to conservative radio host — with first lady Melania Trump giving Limbaugh the medal right there, on the spot. The president told Limbaugh the medal recognized his "decades of tireless devotion to our country" and "the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire."
This came just a day after Limbaugh, 69, announced that he has.
Mr. Trump's decision drew fierce blowback from critics who pointed to Limbaugh's decades of bigoted rhetoric and spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation on his show. Limbaugh now shares an honor awarded to Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and Pope John Paul II — plus military heroes, philanthropists and former U.S. presidents.
It's safe to assume Limbaugh is the only Medal of Freedom recipient who publicly compared black athletes to thugs, mocked a celebrity for having Parkinson's disease and suggested that smoking and an impending hurricane weren't really that dangerous.
Here is just a sampling of some of Limbaugh's most controversial comments in a career culminating with the Presidential Medal of Freedom:
"The NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it." (Source)
"I think it's time to get rid of this whole National Basketball Association. Call it the TBA, the Thug Basketball Association, and stop calling them teams. Call 'em gangs." (Source)
"Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?" (Source)
On Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb: "I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well. There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team." [Limbaugh resigned from ESPN's Sunday NFL Countdown pregame show after uproar over these comments.]
"The NAACP should have riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies." (Source)
"Everything in Africa's called AIDS. The reason is they get aid money for it. AIDS is the biggest pile of, the biggest pot they throw money into." (Source)
Responding to a caller who said black people should have a greater voice on issues: "They are 12 percent of the population. Who the hell cares?" (Source)
On Barack Obama, during the 2008 election: "A veritable rookie whose only chance of winning is that he's black."
"If any race of people should not have guilt about slavery, it's Caucasians. The white race has probably had fewer slaves and for a briefer period of time than any other in the history of the world ... And yet white guilt is still one of the dominating factors in American politics. It's exploited, it's played upon, it is promoted, used, and it's unnecessary." (Source)
"Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society." (Source)
"Women should not be allowed on juries where the accused is a stud." (Source)
"Women still live longer than men because their lives are easier." (Source)
I'm a huge supporter of women. What I'm not is a supporter of liberalism. Feminism is what I oppose, and feminism has led women astray. I love women. I don't know where all this got started. I love the women's movement, especially when walking behind it." (Source)
"When a gay person turns his back on you, it is anything but an insult; it's an invitation." (Source)
On Beyoncé: "She's married to a rich guy ... She now understands it's worth it to bow down." (Source)
On Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified before Congress about the importance of health insurance covering birth control: "What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex — what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute." (Source)
On Hurricane Irma: "You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don't need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it's mission accomplished, agenda advanced." [Limbaugh later evacuated his Florida home because of the hurricane.]
On the Central American migrant caravan heading toward the U.S. in 2018: "The objective is to dilute and eventually eliminate or erase what is known as the distinct or unique American culture ... This is why people call this an invasion."
On LGBT politicians getting elected: "I guarantee there'd be some people in the Republican establishment who will now think, 'Yeah, we need to do this. We need to provide a home, we need to provide a comforting atmosphere for the tranny community and the gay community.' But those people are voting Democrat anyway."
On the dangers of secondhand smoking, and smoking in general: "That is a myth. That has been disproven at the World Health Organization and the report was suppressed. There is no fatality whatsoever. There's no even major sickness component associated with secondhand smoke. It may irritate you, and you may not like it, but it will not make you sick, and it will not kill you...Firsthand smoke takes 50 years to kill people, if it does. Not everybody that smokes gets cancer. Now, it's true that everybody who smokes dies, but so does everyone who eats carrots ... I would like a medal for smoking cigars, is what I'm saying."