Area legislators largely support Limbaugh selection for Hall of Famous Missourians

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh poses with a bust in his likeness during a secretive ceremony inducting him into the Hall of Famous Missourians on Monday in the state Capitol in Jefferson City, Mo. (Julie Smith ~ Associated Press)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- While some state lawmakers are deriding Rush Limbaugh's placement into the Hall of Famous Missourians as an embarrassment, those who represent districts closer to the talk show host's hometown said Tuesday they were solidly behind House Speaker Steve Tilley's decision.

Even one Southeast Missouri Democratic House member, Steve Hodges of East Prairie, said he doesn't oppose the selection, calling it a "done deal."

Rep. Wayne Wallingford, R-Cape Girardeau, and Donna Lichtenegger, R-Jackson, each said they support the decision to put a bust of the conservative talk show host in the Capitol's third-floor rotunda between the House and Senate chambers, where it will join likenesses of fellow inductees, including Walt Disney, Harry Truman and George Washington Carver.

"It is about a famous Missourian," Lichtenegger said. "Rush Limbaugh is a famous Missourian. Whether you like what he says or not, you can't say he is not a famous Missourian."

Others, mainly Democrats and some women's groups, disagree. Opponents say that Limbaugh doesn't belong, citing his comments about a female law student involved in the national debate about insurance for contraception.

Limbaugh was inducted Monday during what some call a semisecret ceremony in the state Capitol that included police guards to keep out uninvited guests. About 20 members of Limbaugh's family attended the event in Jefferson City.

But Lichtenegger said the meeting was largely private to ensure the safety of Limbaugh and his family.

Lichtenegger said that death threats had been made.

"It had nothing to do with trying to keep people out," she said. "It was because of the threats. He's very protective of his family."

Some lawmakers are hoping to block the bust from being placed. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's office released a memo Monday suggesting that a state board has the authority to determine what items are displayed in the rotunda. House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, also said that Tilley has no legal authority to order Limbaugh's bust to be placed in the Capitol Rotunda.

Wallingford said Monday he got to meet Limbaugh when he was in Jefferson City on Monday and that he "got goose bumps from just thinking about it." Wallingford doesn't have a problem, he said, with the way the induction ceremony was handled, suggesting that it may have had something to do with Limbaugh's hectic schedule.

"I don't know how much lead time the people in the know even got," Wallingford said.

It would be hard to find a noncontroversial candidate, he said.

"I don't think controversy should be part of the selection process," Wallingford said. "If it was, we'd have very few people we could select to honor."

Wallingford called Limbaugh "very deserving."

Hodges said a letter of opposition with 48 names that was sent to Tilley in March did not bear his signature. Hodges, who was born in Cape Girardeau, said he knows Limbaugh and his family so he didn't oppose it. But he said he did find one of Limbaugh's remarks during the ceremony offensive.

During his remarks, Limbaugh said that liberals and Democrats are deranged.

"He's just making a blanket comment about everybody and that was poorly put," Hodges said. "Why be negative about it? He was talking about me. I don't feel like I'm deranged. Why didn't he just come up here, go through the ceremony and be gracious?"

Still, Hodges said he still won't oppose Limbaugh's induction.

"It's a done deal," he said. "We're not going to go back in and grandfather something in and take that bust out. But it will be interesting to see if it is placed in another area of the Capitol. If you want my opinion, I don't think it will happen."

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

201 W. Capitol Ave., Jefferson City, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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