In Rush Limbaugh's home state, a flap over lowering flags

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - In life, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh was a divisive figure who proudly waved the flag of conservatism and wallowed in the controversies he sparked. In death, those controversies follow as partisans in his home-state Florida debate over whether to lower flags in his honor.
Governor Ron DeSantis called Limbaugh a "legend" and ordered flags to be hoisted on half the staff as a sign of respect after the longtime broadcaster, 70, died of cancer on Wednesday.
But Democrats, who had long received Limbaugh's speeches, protested.
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Nikki Fried, Florida's commissioner for agriculture and the only nationwide Democratic officer, said Monday that she would not follow orders from the Republican governor. Fried is considering an offer for the governor.
"Lowering the flag of the United States of America to half the staff is a sacred honor that pays respects to fallen heroes and patriots," she said in a statement. She said she would notify any state officials she oversees to disregard the governor's order.
Fried oversees about two dozen agricultural law enforcement inspection stations, more than three dozen state forests, and nine regional licensing offices, all under the flags of the United States and Florida.
"I'm concerned that the governor will bend back to honor a radio host who has consistently made racist, polarizing and conspiratorial comments," Fried said in an interview on Monday afternoon.
"It is really inappropriate," she said of the flag being lowered, "and the governor is playing politics with this American treasure that is our flag."
A year ago, during his last State of the Union address, President Donald Trump presented Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.
The day before, Limbaugh had announced that he was fighting advanced lung cancer.
Limbaugh had campaigned for conservatism for decades - often at the expense of the Liberals and Democrats.
Fried wasn't the only elected official complaining about the governor's decision.
"Don't lower flags for rush," tweeted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Monday. "In St. Pete we do not honor hatred, racism, bigotry, homophobia, or anything else it has spat out over the years. We do honor the life of Deputy Michael Magli of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, however."
Earlier in the day, DeSantis had ordered half-staff to be hoisted flags to honor Magli, who died last week after being hit by a vehicle while serving in Pinellas County, home of St. Petersburg in the Tampa Bay area .
The governor's office declined to draft the state's flag-lowering protocols.
The flags are usually lowered to honor prominent government officials, as well as law enforcement officers and members of the military who were killed on duty. However, the governor also has the power to lower the flags to commemorate tragedies, most recently the third anniversary of the Parkland High School shootings that killed 17 students and staff.
DeSantis said Limbaugh's stature justified the honor.
"If there are things of this magnitude, after the burial date for Rush is announced, we will lower the flags to half the staff," DeSantis said at a news conference Friday in Palm Beach County.
"Not much needs to be said," said the governor. “He was an absolute legend. He was a friend of mine and just a great person. "
Fried said she would not punish any of her managers who could follow her "strong leadership" and instead decide to obey the governor's direction.
"If someone wants to lower the flag, there are no penalties," she said.
In this article:
Rush Limbaugh
Nikki Fried
Ron DeSantis

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