Tilley names Limbaugh to Hall of Famous Missourians

Tuesday, March 6, 2012
FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2009 file photo, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh talks with guests in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Limbaugh apologized Saturday, March 3, 2012, to a Georgetown University law student he had branded a "slut" and "prostitute" after fellow Republicans as well as Democrats criticized him and several advertisers left his program. The student, Sandra Fluke, had testified to congressional Democrats in support of their national health care policy that would compel her college to offer health plans that cover her birth control. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

House Speaker Steve Tilley is unapologetic: Radio talk show host and famous Cape Girardeau native Rush Limbaugh belongs in the Hall of Famous Missourians, alongside the likes of Stan Musial, Harry S. Truman and Walt Disney.

On Monday, Tilley confirmed he has chosen Limbaugh -- along with Dred Scott -- to have busts of their likeness placed in the Missouri State Capitol. And Tilley, R-Perryville, said Limbaugh's recent controversy in which he called a law student who testified about birth control policy a "slut" didn't give him a minute's pause.

"Keep this in mind: It's not called the Hall of Universally Loved Missourians," Tilley said Monday afternoon. "We've inducted people like John Ashcroft, Warren Hearnes and Harry Truman. They certainly had their detractors."

Tilley said he made the decision on Limbaugh before last week's comments and backlash.

But as soon as the news broke, some were already demanding that Tilley, who has sole decision-making power as House speaker, reconsider. Progress Missouri, a self-described progressive advocacy group in Jefferson City, publicly denounced the decision.

"Rush Limbaugh has no place in the Missouri Capitol in a place of honor," said Sean Soendker Nicholson, the executive director of the group. "... Someone who is as divisive and just wretched and mean and horrible as Rush Limbaugh has no business being there."

Limbaugh's nationally syndicated radio show was seeing other forms of backlash from the comments as well. Seven of his advertisers have pulled their spots from his conservative radio show, prompting Limbaugh to issue an apology Saturday.

"For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week," Limbaugh said in his written apology. "In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke."

Limbaugh called the 30-year-old Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" last week after she testified to congressional Democrats in support of national health care policies that would compel employers and other organizations, including Georgetown University where she attends, to offer group health insurance that covers birth control for women.

But Tilley, who is being forced out of office by term limits at the end of the year, said Limbaugh has a broadcast record that makes him deserving to be in the hall along with the 39 others.

Tilley noted that Limbaugh, whose show is listened to on more than 600 stations, has the most successful radio talk show career in the industry's history.

"He's also been the strong voice for the conservative movement for a generation," Tilley said. "Very few Missourians are as famous as Rush Limbaugh."

With regard to the controversy, Tilley said his job isn't to support or condemn what Limbaugh said.

Tilley referenced John Ashcroft, who served as U.S. attorney general and governor and senator in Missouri. Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Ashcroft was a supporter of the U.S. Patriot Act. President Harry Truman was criticized by some for his decision to use nuclear weapons on Japan.

"Those individuals took positions that at times could be controversial, clearly," Tilley said. "Rush is no different than any of the other people. But it's undeniable, the impact he's had on radio and America and how successful he's been."

Also to be inducted is Dred Scott, the former 19th-century slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom. A sculptor in Kansas City is creating the busts, though Tilley said a timeline is not yet available.

smoyers@semissourian.com

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201 W. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, MO

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