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Florida’s Ag Commissioner Refuses to Fly Flag at Half-Staff for Rush Limbaugh

“We will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried is seen at The Knight Concert Hall in Miami, Florida, on June 26, 2019.

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced late last week that he would soon order flags in his state to be lowered to half-mast to recognize controversial conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died on Wednesday. But at least one executive branch official is planning to buck such an order.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat who oversees several government properties, said she wouldn’t comply with the governor’s decree to honor Limbaugh.

“Lowering to half-staff the flag of the United States of America is a sacred honor that pays respect to fallen heroes and patriots. It is not a partisan political tool,” she said in a statement.

All parts of state government under Fried’s purview — which include around two dozen inspection stations, nine licensing offices, and over three dozen state forests — will “disregard the Governor’s forthcoming order to lower flags for Mr. Limbaugh — because we will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division,” she explained.

DeSantis had originally announced his intention to lower flags in the state for Limbaugh during a press briefing on Friday. He described the honor as something that the state does for important figures “when there’s things of this magnitude.”

DeSantis also said Limbaugh was “an absolute legend, he was a friend of mine and just a great person.”

But in an interview regarding the matter, Fried explained that Limbaugh was not a deserving recipient of the honor.

“My concern is that the governor is bending over backwards to honor a radio host who has consistently made racist, polarizing and conspiracy comments,” Fried said on Monday.

Other elected officials, including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, have also said they wouldn’t acknowledge DeSantis’s order.

“In St. Pete we don’t honor hatred, racism, bigotry, homophobia, or anything else he has spewed over the years,” Kriseman explained.

Limbaugh was indeed a giant in talk radio, but not necessarily in ways that many would deem to be positive. His radio program was frequently light on policy discussion and heavy on personal attacks toward others or toward groups of people, including feminists, members of the LGBTQ community, and communities of color.

Upon his death last week, several users on social media logged on to remind the world of the many ways he spread hatred and vitriol on the radio, including calling a proponent of birth control a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her advocacy on the subject in front of Congress; promulgating conspiracy theories based on lies, such as “birtherism,” which alleged that former President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States (and was therefore an illegitimate president); and producing a regular segment on his show where he played celebratory music while reveling in the deaths of LGBTQ individuals who had succumbed to HIV/AIDS.

Florida’s flag protocol would not ordinarily allow for an individual like Limbaugh to receive the honor of their being flown at half-mast. The governor is generally allowed to only lower flags “in the event of the death of a present or former official of the Florida State government or the death of a member of the Armed Forces from Florida who dies while serving on active duty,” per the state’s policy.