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In debate over ‘Rush Limbaugh Day’ in Missouri, conservative icon still galvanizing

In debate over ‘Rush Limbaugh Day’ in Missouri, conservative icon still galvanizing

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Limbaugh buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery

Flags fly at the grave of talk show host Rush Limbaugh in Bellefontaine Cemetery on Sunday, April 4, 2021. Photo by Robert Cohen, rcohen@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A day in mid-January would be set aside to honor the late Rush Limbaugh under legislation debated in a Missouri Senate committee Tuesday.

Limbaugh, 70, a right-wing radio host from Cape Girardeau who gained national fame, died in February after a battle with cancer.

Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, wants to designate each Jan. 12, Limbaugh’s birthday, as “Rush Limbaugh Day.”

The proposal mirrors a proposal pending in the House sponsored by Rep. Hardy Billington, R-Poplar Bluff.

The legislation has ignited controversy given Limbaugh’s decades of divisive rhetoric.

In response to the House legislation, scores of opponents submitted written testimony urging lawmakers to reject the proposal.

Dave Gutekunst, an assistant professor at St. Louis University, said Limbaugh brought shame on himself and the state.

“Throughout his long career, Rush Limbaugh drove people apart with his racism, misogyny, and shocking disregard for truth or decency,” Gutekunst wrote.

By contrast, supporters said Limbaugh drove the national conversation on issues of importance to the nation.

“Rush was an icon of the American dream and American conservatism,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Smith of Salem. “His life exemplified the reward of hard work that he so firmly believed was within the grasp of every American.”

Rehder called Limbaugh “larger than life.”

“He was a conservative voice for millions of Americans,” Rehder said.

She acknowledged the proposal would be divisive.

But, she said, “Rush changed the game when it came to political commentary. That’s a big deal.”

“I’m proud of the legacy of Rush Limbaugh,” Rehder said. “He is a man worth remembering.”

Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, said there are many figures in history who have caused controversy both during their lives and afterward.

“There is no doubt the impact Rush had,” Burlison said.

Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, said she couldn’t support the designation because of Limbaugh’s attacks on women and the LGBTQ community.

“I think this is one that we’ll probably never agree on,” Arthur said.

No one from the public spoke in favor or opposition to the legislation, which now awaits a vote in the Senate General Laws Committee.

The legislation is Senate Bill 532 and House Bill 1200.

A group of Republican lawmakers wants to make "Rush Limbaugh Day" an annual celebration in Missouri.

On Wednesday, March 3, 2021, a Missouri House committee heard testimony on designating "Rush Limbaugh Day" in Missouri. Limbaugh, 70, a right-wing radio host from Cape Girardeau who gained national fame, died on Feb. 17 after a battle with cancer.

Rep. Hardy Billington, R-Poplar Bluff, introduced the legislation.. It would designate each Jan. 12, Limbaugh's birthday, as the day of observation in the state..

"Citizens of this state are encouraged to celebrate the day by participating in appropriate events and activities to remember the life of the famous Missourian and groundbreaking radio host," the legislation says.

The legislation is House Bill 1200.

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