President Donald Trump announced during his State of the Union address Tuesday that he was honoring conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Limbaugh, 69, is known to be a friend of the president. He was seated in the gallery next to first lady Melania Trump and the president’s other guests during the speech at the U.S. Capitol.
On Monday, Limbaugh announced on his nationally syndicated talk radio show that he has been diagnosed with advanced-stage lung cancer.
“This day has been one of the most difficult days in recent memory for me, because I’ve known this moment was coming in the program today,” Limbaugh said during the live broadcast.
“I’m sure that you all know by now that I really don’t like talking about myself and I don’t like making things about me,” he added. “The one thing that I know that has happened over the 31-plus years of this program is that there has been an incredible bond that has developed between all of you and me.”
“So, I have to tell you something today that I wish I didn’t have to tell you. It’s a struggle for me because I had to inform my staff earlier today,” Limbaugh said. “I can’t help but feel that I’m letting everybody down with this.
“But the upshot is that I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.”
While he undergoes treatment, Limbaugh said his “intention is to come here every day I can and do this program as normally and as competently and expertly as I do each and every day, because that is the source of my greatest satisfaction professionally, personally.”
Trump singled Limbaugh out on Tuesday, calling him a “special man.”
“Here tonight is a special man, beloved by millions of Americans, who just received a stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis,” Trump said. “This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
“Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,” Trump said.
At that point, Limbaugh received a standing ovation.
“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,” Trump said. “I will now ask the first lady of the United States to present you with the honor.”
The first lady then placed the medal around Limbaugh’s neck.
Watch the entire moment, including Limbaugh’s emotional response, below. Limbaugh appeared to have tears in his eyes at one point:
According to multiple media reports, Trump told television anchors earlier Tuesday — at the traditional off-the-record lunch that presidents share with the anchors on the day of the State of the Union address — that he planned to honor Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom.
Trump was “shaken up” by Limbaugh’s announcement, a person who was at the lunch told Politico anonymously.
The two men saw each other over the holidays in Palm Beach, Florida, Trump reportedly said.
“He said he told Rush, ‘You look great — like you’ve lost weight,’ but that Limbaugh didn’t say anything at the time about his health,” the person at the lunch told Politico.
Trump also praised Limbaugh in a tweet Monday.
“Many people do not know what a great guy & fantastic political talent the great Rush Limbaugh is,” the president tweeted. “There is nobody like him. Looking for a speedy recovery for our friend!”
Many people do not know what a great guy & fantastic political talent the great Rush Limbaugh is. There is nobody like him. Looking for a speedy recovery for our friend! https://t.co/GRTt56BjEu
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2020
“Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, this prestigious award is the Nation’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded by the President of the United States to individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” the site says.
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