Limbaugh announced on the air on Monday that he had been diagnosed with cancer

By Adam Carlson
February 04, 2020 10:17 PM
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Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh (right) at the State of the Union in February
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

One day after announcing on the air that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, popular conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was seated as a guest of honor at Tuesday night’s State of the Union.

President Donald Trump paused his speech to address Limbaugh directly and award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

“Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness. Here tonight is a special man, beloved by millions of Americans, who just received a stage-4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news. But what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet,” said Trump, 73, as he introduced Limbaugh, 69, who was seated with his wife next to First Lady Melania Trump.

“Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,” President Trump continued. “And Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”

“I will now ask the first lady of the United Sates to present you with the honor,” the president said.

Mrs. Trump then put the medal around Limbaugh’s neck as he looked visibly surprised by the announcement (though it had leaked from the White House in recent hours).

Limbaugh also mouthed “thank you” as the room of assembled lawmakers clapped and cheered.

“Rush and Kathryn, congratulations,” the president said before resuming his speech.

Past medal recipients include Martin Luther King Jr., former First Lady Nancy Reagan, and a host of philanthropists, activists, religious leaders and others.

Melania Trump, Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from First Lady Melania Trump during Tuesday’s State of the Union
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images
Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at Tuesday’s State of the Union
| Credit: MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

Limbaugh first made his cancer public on Monday. “I wish I didn’t have to tell you this and I thought about not telling anybody,” he said on his show. “I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing ‘cause I don’t like making things about me.”

Limbaugh said that he “first realized something was wrong on my birthday weekend,” on Jan. 12, and his diagnosis was later confirmed on Jan. 20.

“The worst thing that can happen is when there is something going on and you try to hide it and cover it up, it’s eventually going to leak and then people are going — ‘Why didn’t you just say it, why’d you try to fool everybody?’ ” he said Monday. “And it’s not that I want to fool anybody. It’s just that I don’t want to burden anybody with it and I haven’t wanted to.”

Limbaugh rose to national fame during the advent of conservative talk radio in the ’90s. His provocative style has drawn his share of controversy in the past (and that same history raised some eyebrows on social media on Tuesday, after he received his medal).

In 2010 he married Kathryn Rogers, his fourth bride, in Palm Beach, Florida, where an unlikely guest — Elton John — serenaded them.