The governor, whose questionable decision-making has been making headlines for months, moved to honor Limbaugh by issuing a memo directing the lowering of the American flag to half-staff on Wednesday at several locations across the state, including the Palm Beach County Courthouse and Palm Beach City Hall.
Limbaugh was a longtime resident of Palm Beach County.
But the Palm Beach County commissioner issued her own statement reminding DeSantis and anyone with hopes of having flags lowered for Limbaugh what exactly that specific honor is actually reserved for. In doing so, Commissioner Melissa McKinlay also accurately pointed to Limbaugh’s “divisive” history as yet another reason why the Palm Beach County government has no interest in flying the flag at half-staff for him.
“The lowering of flags should be a unifying gesture during solemn occasions, such as in remembrance of the young lives lost during the Parkland High School massacre or first responder line of duty deaths,” McKinlay tweeted Tuesday night. “Although Rush Limbaugh was a significant public figure, he was also an incredibly divisive one who hurt many people with his words and actions. I cannot and will not support the lowering of flags in his memory.”
DeSantis also wanted the flag lowered at the State Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday.
Other state and city officials in Florida took similar stances and said they, too, would forbid the flag to be lowered for Limbaugh, sparking a debate along partisan lines.
“Recognizing a Floridian who was a pioneer in radio, and was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor,” Christian Ziegler, vice chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, told the Tallahassee Democrat. He suggested that politicians opposing lowering the flag were looking to “secure political points from her far-left base.”
To be sure, even DeSantis’ own “flag protocol” doesn’t call for the half-staff treatment for citizens and/or constituents like Limbaugh.
“Approval for displaying the flags at half-staff, however, resides with the Governor,” the state’s flag-lowering guidance says, though.
With that said, state law leaves it up to the governor to decide who gets honored with lowered flags, including “the death of high-ranking state officials, uniformed law enforcement and fire service personnel, and prominent citizens.”
The controversy was the latest criticism of DeSantis, who has arguably made disastrous decisions for Florida regarding the pandemic, including most recently moving to limit the powers that state’s local governments have and pushing back against social distance restrictions that experts have said would help slow the spread of COVID-19.
Following the death of Arizona Sen. John McCain in 2018, David Dennis wrote for NewsOne about the racial nuances associated with lowering the flag to half-staff.
“Flags at half-staff have always represented the recognition of American tragedies, but Black death has never been perceived as an American tragedy,” Dennis wrote before adding later: “The gesture was never meant for us and I doubt it ever will be.”
Limbaugh died on Feb. 17, nearly four months after announcing he had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He was 70 years old. The once-proud supporter of Donald Trump remains a lightning rod for controversy in death following a career that spanned nearly five decades. In that time, Limbaugh repeatedly attacked Black and brown people, like when he helped champion the so-called birtherism conspiracy theory that incorrectly challenged former President Barack Obama‘s nationality.