JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Show-Me state is well known for producing a lot of great, courageous people – people worthy of recognition in our Hall of Famous Missourians.
Author-activists like Maya Angelou and Mark Twain were born here, as was baseball great Yogi Berra. Actress and civil rights leader Josephine Baker and musical pioneer Scott Joplin were born here. So were the controversial comedians Dick Gregory and Redd Foxx. Poet Langston Hughes and astronaut Janet Kanvandi were born here too, just to name a few.
But yes, Rush Limbaugh was also born here.
While the Show-Me state periodically honors native Missourians at the State Capitol’s Hall of Famous Missourians, it doesn’t usually honor people as divisive, hateful, ignorant, intolerant or as full of themselves as the right-wing radio shock jock.
In fact, we usually honor unifying figures, educators, scientists, musicians and sports greats.
While we’re usually proud to recognize Missourians who have gone on to accomplish greatness, we’re not proud of Rush Limbaugh, nor should we be.
He isn’t a unifying figure. He certainly isn’t an educator. In fact, I would argue that people who listen to his radio show are usually more ill-informed after listening than they were before. He’s no scientist. And he definitely isn’t a sports great.
Missouri House Speaker Steve Tilley’s recent decision to honor Limbaugh with a bronze bust is not only an insult to most ordinary Missourians but also an insult to those Missourians more deserving of recognition.
Certainly Limbaugh’s recent rants against birth control and his personal attacks on Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke are headline grabbing, but, for him, aren’t unusual. He’s said worse and will likely say worse in the future.
In fact, Limbaugh cares very little – if at all – about honest political debate. Whether it’s about birth control, immigration reform, race relations, health care, workers’ rights or civil liberties, Limbaugh relies on half-truths to misinform. He relies on base instincts, fear and insults, and uses his rhetorical tools to distract people from honest political debate.
And while some people listen to him for his politics, most listen to be entertained.
Ultimately, Limbaugh is an entertainer, a buffoon, a clown with a radio show – albeit an extremely paranoid, delusional and loud clown with a radio show, but still a clown.
And while the Hall of Famous Missourians does have a bust of Emmett Kelly, best known as the “Weary Willie” hobo clown, it shouldn’t honor political, self-promoting clowns like Limbaugh. He’s already gotten enough undeserved attention.
A number of progressive organizations have launched a petition drive protesting Tilley’s choice of Limbaugh for the Hall of Famous Missourians.