No one can argue that talk show host Rush Limbaugh isn't famous.
And because he was born in Cape Girardeau, he's clearly a Missourian.
Yet House Speaker Steve Tilley's decision to honor the conservative radio personality by inducting him into the Hall of Famous Missourians later this year has stirred controversy — especially in light of Limbaugh’s recent comments in which he referred to a Georgetown University law student as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”
“If you look at the folks that are honored with a sculpture in the Capitol, Mr. Limbaugh doesn’t seem to fit,” said state Rep. Jeanette Mott Oxford, a St. Louis Democrat.
The liberal organization Progress Missouri also has launched a petition drive protesting the choice of Limbaugh for the hall and calling on Tilley to reverse his decision.
But Tilley said Monday that the ceremony will go on as planned and that he is “honored” to be the one who chose Limbaugh to be included in the hall alongside Missourians such as Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Walter Cronkite and George Washington Carver.
“It’s not the ‘Hall of Universally Loved Missourians,’ ” said Tilley, a Perryville Republican. “It’s the Hall of Famous Missourians.”
The hall is in the third-floor rotunda of the Missouri Capitol. The group of bronze busts depicts prominent Missourians honored for their achievements and contributions to the state. Inductees are selected by the Missouri House speaker, and the bronze busts are paid for by the Speaker’s Annual Golf Classic.
Limbaugh’s bust is being made by Kansas City sculptor E. Spencer Schubert. He didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.
Schubert also is working on the bust of another Missourian whom Tilley is inducting into the hall this year — Dred Scott, the African-American slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in 1857.
Tilley said former Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat, also may be inducted this year. Last month, Tilley inducted Negro Leagues great Buck O’Neil, who played first base for the Kansas City Monarchs.
“No one can deny the fact that (Rush Limbaugh) would qualify as a famous Missourian,” Tilley said. “He’s from my area of the state. His career has reached to where he’s one of the most recognizable radio personalities, not just in the country, but in the world.”
Tilley pointed to former two-term Gov. Warren Hearnes, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Mark Twain as current members of the hall who also had a history of making controversial comments.
“He talks on the radio every day for hours, and I’m not going to go through and review every comment he’s ever made,” Tilley said.
Limbaugh made his comments about 30-year old law student Sandra Fluke last week after she testified in support of a requirement that health care companies provide coverage for contraception.
He has since apologized for what he described as his poor choice of words, but several companies pulled their advertising support from his show.
On Monday, AOL Inc. joined mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom in suspending their advertising.
AOL said the company determined that Limbaugh’s comments “are not in line with our values.”
The National Organization for Women also called on Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks Inc. to pull the show from the air. And a group of female military veterans called for his show to be yanked from the American Forces Network.
Limbaugh did not respond to a request for comment, but remained defiant. He told listeners on his radio show Monday that while he was sorry to see some advertisers go, “they have profited handsomely from you.”
“They’ve decided they don’t want you or your business anymore. So be it. For me, this program is always about you,” he went on to say, noting that he rejects “millions of dollars of advertising each year.”
Meanwhile, Fluke dismissed Limbaugh’s apology, saying it changed nothing.
“I don’t think that a statement like this issued, saying that his choice of words was not the best, changes anything, and especially when that statement is issued when he’s under significant pressure from his sponsors who have begun to pull their support,” Fluke told ABC’s “The View” on Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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