‘Well, my God. Free speech still exists…’
(Liberty Headlines) Just over a week since his standing ovation in Congress, the honeymoon was over for cancer-stricken, conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.
Limbaugh drew bipartisan criticism Thursday for saying the country won’t elect Pete Buttigieg president because he’s been “kissing his husband” on stage after debates.
“It’s a miscalculation as to where the country is at,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strong supporter of President Donald Trump, told The Associated Press about Limbaugh’s words.
“I think the country is not going to disqualify somebody because of their sexual orientation,” said Graham, who has been the subject of speculation and attacks from political opponents concerning his own undeclared sexual identity.
Limbaugh’s comments came eight days after Trump awarded him the nation’s top civilian honor during the State of the Union address. Trump said Limbaugh inspires millions of people daily and thanked him for “decades of tireless devotion to our country.”
Limbaugh, who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer, made the remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. Buttigieg has finished in the top two in Democrats’ first two presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, giving him a narrow lead in delegates over socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Despite a steady flow of campaign funds from establishment liberals, the former South Bend, Ind., mayor’s youthful inexperience and his sexual orientation are the two biggest wild cards hindering his candidacy.
“They’re saying, ‘OK, how’s this going to look?'” Limbaugh said Wednesday, imagining Democrats’ thinking. “Thirty-seven-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump.'”
The 69-year-old Limbaugh also said some Democrats may believe they should “get a gay guy kissing his husband on stage, ram it down Trump’s throat and beat him in the general election. Really? Having fun envisioning that.”
Buttigieg, 38, has been married to his husband, Chasten, since 2018. He was a U.S. Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, is a Harvard graduate and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in England.
Limbaugh said he envisioned Democrats concluding that “despite all the great wokeness and despite all the great ground that’s been covered, that America’s still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president.”
At least one Democratic voter in Iowa notably sought to withdraw her selection of Buttigieg after discovering he was gay. Democrats likewise revealed their deeply harbored, latent racism by eliminating several candidates of color from contention early in the primary.
However, left-wing opponents sought to inaccurately frame Limbaugh’s statement, not as a commentary on their own homophobia, and rather to claim he, himself, was espousing anti-gay views.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is challenging Buttigieg for the Democratic presidential nomination, assailed Limbaugh on ABC’s “The View.”
“I mean, my God,” said Biden, who called it “part of the depravity of this administration.” He added, “Pete and I are competitors, but this guy has honor, he has courage, he is smart as hell.”
Some Capitol Hill Republicans said they disagreed with Limbaugh’s remark, while others demurred.
Asked if Limbaugh should retain the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Trump bestowed last week during his State of the Union address, Graham said, “Well, my God. Free speech still exists.”
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said she’d not heard the comment. “I’m just going to leave all that alone,” she said.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, facing reelection this fall, also declined to comment.
Moderate Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Limbaugh, “He may disagree, as I do, with their policy positions, but the question is what their qualifications are, not other issues.” Portman announced his support for gay marriage in 2013 as he revealed that his son Will is gay.
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., another moderate who is retiring in January, initially said he wasn’t familiar with Limbaugh’s remarks and declined to comment. His spokesman later emailed an Alexander statement that said: “There may be reasons not to vote for Mayor Buttigieg, but that’s not one of them. This is a tolerant country.”
A Buttigieg campaign spokesman declined to comment.
But the candidate has addressed criticism over his sexuality before. During a Des Moines, Iowa, rally in 2019, an audience member asked what he should tell his friends who say America isn’t ready for a gay president. Buttigieg replied, “Tell your friends I said ‘hi.’”
The former mayor has also framed his sexuality in religious terms.
“If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade,” Buttigieg said. “If you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.