JEFFERSON CITY • A ceremony was held at the state Capitol today to induct conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians.
“This is something I never, ever considered would happen to me,” Limbaugh said from the House chamber dais.
House Speaker Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, praised Limbaugh as the "voice of conservative America for more than a decade."
Tilley, who selected Limbaugh for the honor, made the official announcement about the ceremony 25 minutes before it was scheduled to begin. But chatter began earlier in the day as Republican lawmakers, scheduled to come in later this afternoon, gathered at the Capitol, and Limbaugh was spotted in the halls.
The event was not open to the general public and Missouri Highway Patrol officers guarded the entries to the House chamber.
“With the controversy surrounding (Limbaugh), I thought it was acceptable to do an invitation only event,” Tilley explained after the event.
Limbaugh’s induction – which means a bronze bust of the Cape Girardeau native could be placed in the Capitol rotunda – has been a point of contention for several weeks.
Pointing to a recent scandal in which Limbaugh called a Georgetown law student who publicly advocated access to contraceptives a “slut” and a “prostitute,” opponents have said he should not be included in the display. Some famous Missourians appearing in the hall include Sacajawea, Mark Twain, Walt Disney and Bob Barker
Tilley has said Limbaugh deserves inclusion because he is a notable entertainer. His radio show reaches more than 15 million listeners each week.
"He may say things that strike a nerve," Tilley said during the ceremony. "That doesn’t undo everything he has accomplished in his career."
Rumors swirled last week that Limbaugh’s bust had arrived at the Capitol and an induction ceremony was imminent. Tilley made light of the many questions he received last week over the bust's whereabouts.
"It’s right here – it’s right where it belongs," he said.
Democrats say they are continuing to fight the placement of the bronze Limbaugh bust in the rotunda, an area of the Capitol that is controlled by the state Board of Public Buildings and the State Capitol Commission.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, said he is "very confident" that the bust won’t go in the rotunda.
"It is still my hope that the citizens of Missouri don’t have to have someone like that in the Hall of Famous Missourians," he said.
He said the bust could be placed in other areas controlled by the House, including the speaker’s office or the House floor.