Missouri Democrats object to Limbaugh honor in state Capitol

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 | 5:32 p.m. CST; updated 6:35 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 8, 2012

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri House Democrats on Tuesday called for the abandonment of plans to induct conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians in the state Capitol.

A letter signed by 48 House Democrats said Limbaugh is unworthy for the honor because of a "controversial career." Democrats specifically cited Limbaugh's recent comments describing a female law student involved in the national debate about insurance for contraception as a "slut" and "prostitute." The Democrats said that honoring the talk show host now could be seen as an unspoken endorsement of his "misogynistic attitudes." Limbaugh has apologized for his comments.

"Inductees have been limited to those widely recognized for making positive contributions in their given field or who have otherwise achieved acclaim," the Democrats' letter stated. "Mr. Limbaugh's brand of fame is best described as notoriety and the value of his contributions to the field of broadcasting are debatable. He would by far be the most divisive and controversial inductee to the Hall, and his inclusion would not bring honor to the state of Missouri."

The Democrats' letter was sent to House Speaker Steven Tilley on the letterhead of Minority Leader Mike Talboy, of Kansas City.

Tilley said Tuesday he will go forward with inducting Limbaugh and that he was not surprised the choice has been criticized.

"I knew some people didn't like him, but there's a lot of people in the Hall of Famous Missourians that weren't the most popular people and that took controversial stances," he said.

Tilley has said he decided about three months ago to select Limbaugh, noting that he is among the world's best-known radio personalities and that it is called the Hall of Famous Missourians — not the hall of "universally loved Missourians."

Inductees into the Hall of Famous Missourians have their busts displayed in the state Capitol. Several dozen people have been chosen by Missouri House speakers through the years, including President Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, George Washington Carver and Stan Musial.

Limbaugh's induction was endorsed by the top state Senate Republican.

"I think Rush Limbaugh has done well in his field of work, and I think he is deserving to be placed in that area where famous Missourians are recognized," said Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, of Dexter.

Tilley, Mayer and Limbaugh all are from southeastern Missouri. Tilley, a Republican, represents Perryville in the Missouri House, and Limbaugh is a Cape Girardeau native.

The Democrats said fame should not be sufficient for recognition and, if it were, outlaws Frank and Jesse James then could qualify for the Hall of Famous Missourians.

Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, who signed the letter to Tilley, said in a news release, "I will support all efforts to stop this induction. Speaker Tilley demonstrates the arrogance of power when he promotes Limbaugh as a Missouri hero while knowing that Limbaugh has consistently insulted women and minorities."

Despite Limbaugh's apology, his radio show has lost at least nine advertisers since his comments about 30-year-old Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who testified in favor of health care policy that would compel her Jesuit college's health plan to cover birth control.

Late Negro Leagues baseball player Buck O'Neil was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians during a ceremony last week. Tilley said he also plans to select Dred Scott, a slave who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in a famous court case.

Associated Press writer David A. Lieb contributed to this report.

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