The timing of Missouri Speaker of the House Steve Tilley's announcement that he had named Rush Limbaugh to the Hall of Famous Missourians could not have been any worse.
It has only been a few days since Limbaugh went on a verbal rampage, referring to Georgetown student Sandra Fluke as a "slut" and a "prostitute," simply because she advocated expanded access to birth control.
Tilley noted that Limbaugh is "famous," and that certainly is true. But then the speaker had the audacity to compare Limbaugh to other famous Missourians who have already been enshrined in the hall and who had their detractors -- the Show-Me State's only president, Harry S. Truman, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and former Gov. Warren Hearnes.
For Steve Tilley to compare a radio host who has made millions by dividing America to people who devoted their lives to public service is an insult. Limbaugh has always referred to himself as "an entertainer," but there is also no legitimate comparison between Limbaugh and such entertainers as St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan "The Man" Musial and Walt Disney, both of whom are in the Hall.
Some have called Limbaugh a journalist (though journalists are required to provide a least of modicum of truth). In that field, the Cape Girardeau native pales in comparison to Walter Cronkite, another member of the Hall.
Even if you could forgive Tilley, who as Speaker has the sole province to select the new members, for preferring someone from his own area of the state, there is no forgiving him the insult to enshrine Limbaugh during the same year that he selected Buck O'Neil and Dred Scott for induction.
That would be the same Dred Scott, whose efforts to escape slavery were thwarted by one of the worst decisions in U. S. Supreme Court history, and Buck O'Neil, who nearly singlehandedly brought the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum in Kansas City into existence, was the first African American coach in major league baseball, and who was a long-time all-star with the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues, where he played because the doors to major league baseball were closed to people of his color.
What a cruel joke for Steve Tilley to invite Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians the same year as Buck O'Neil and Dred Scott.
After all, though it is his sexist comments that have brought a firestorm upon Limbaugh over the past few days, he has a long history of peppering the airwaves with racially-charged remarks.
Nine years ago, it was his disparaging comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, saying McNabb had been built up by a media that wanted to see a black quarterback and black coaches succeed. Limbaugh asserted that McNabb's success was completely owed to the Eagle defense. The controversy over that remark led to Limbaugh's resignation from ESPN.
Since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, Limbaugh has teetered on the edge of racist comments on nearly a daily basis, referring to the president as a "Halfrican-American," and offering alleged humor based on President Obama's skin color including a song called "Barack, the Magic Negro."
A man such as this has no place in an institution designed to honor the best of Missouri. While the world has moved into the 21st century, Rush Limbaugh and those who hang on his every word steadfastly cling to a lily-white past that shames all of us.
Follow Randy Turner on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rturner229