MIAMI – Even in death, Rush Limbaugh sent political partisans to their battles.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican close to Mr. Limbaugh, the right-wing talk show megastar who died last week, said on Tuesday that flags on the state capitol and two locations in Palm Beach County should be cut to half-staff in his memory on Wednesday.
That honor usually goes to well-known officials, members of the military, and law enforcement officers who died while on duty. For instance, on Monday, Mr. DeSantis ordered the flags to be lowered on Tuesday in honor of a deputy to a Pinellas County sheriff who was fatally hit by a car last week.
But it is also within the governor's power to issue so-called flag memorandums to commemorate tragedies such as the Parkland school shooting. Mr. DeSantis said Friday that Mr. Limbaugh, a Florida resident who died in Palm Beach for more than two decades, was an "absolute legend."
& # 39; Not much needs to be said, & # 39; Mr. Limbaugh's governor added. "He was a friend of mine and just a great person."
In a statement on Tuesday, Mr. DeSantis mr. Limbaughs & # 39; Service to Our Nation and State & # 39; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from former President Donald J. Trump. He said US and state flags should be lowered to half-staff at the Palm Beach County Courthouse, Palm Beach City Hall, and Tallahassee's State Capitol.
While Mr. DeSantis's memorandum was ultimately not statewide, some officials had publicly prepared to defy his command, igniting the kind of political firestorm that Mr. Limbaugh himself would have sparked in his lifetime.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is the only Democrat elected to the state office, said Monday she would refuse to lower the flags in the state offices under her jurisdiction. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which it oversees, includes nine regional licensing offices, 38 state forests, and 23 agricultural law enforcement inspection stations.
"The flag is a symbol of our country, which represents freedom and patriotism and liberty, and is believed to be lowered in honor of those who have served," Ms. Fried said in an interview Tuesday, before Mr DeSantis' formal memorandum. . "Lowering the flag for someone who has spent his entire career talking about hatred and bigotry and dividing our country and spitting out conspiracy theories is not the way we honor those who fought for our flag."
Some local mayors had also said they would defy the governor's order. Mr. DeSantis's office has not commented on the backlash.
The flap heralded the start of the 2022 election season in Florida. Ms. Fried is considering running for governor against Mr. DeSantis, who is eligible for re-election. Other Democrats are also weighing up the candidacies, including Saint Petersburg U.S. Representative Charlie Crist, who served one term as the state's Republican governor before leaving the party.
Mr. DeSantis, who ran as Mr. Trump's acolyte in 2018, won by only about 32,000 votes after a recount. But Mr. Trump, now a resident of Palm Beach himself, had such a solid victory in November that the state seemed increasingly difficult for Democrats to win back.
DeSantis has used its policies during the coronavirus pandemic, including the reopening of personal education schools in the fall, to bolster its political base. Indeed, Friday's event, in which he announced he would be raising flags for Mr Limbaugh, felt more like a noisy political gathering than a sedate press conference, with cheers and standing ovations from the crowd.
Mr. DeSantis noted that Mr. Limbaugh had invited him to his radio show when he was running for governor.
“I got the tar kicked out of me every day, and he had me in the week before the 2018 election,” he said. "He didn't have many guests. I was honored to have been on his show a few times."
The press conference was held indoors in a Hilton hotel. After that, Palm Beach County sent the hotel a letter stating that visitors were shown on videos and photos without wearing masks, in violation of a local mandate.