Limbaugh draws bipartisan criticism for Buttigieg remarks

WASHINGTON (AP) — Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh drew bipartisan criticism Thursday for saying the country won't elect Pete Buttigieg president because he's been “kissing his husband" on stage after debates.

Limbaugh's comments came eight days after President Donald Trump awarded him the nation's top civilian honor during the State of the Union address. Trump said Limbaugh inspires millions of people daily and thanked him for “decades of tireless devotion to our country."

Limbaugh, a staunch Trump ally who recently announced he has advanced lung cancer, made the remarks on his nationally syndicated radio show. Buttigieg has finished in the top two in Democrats' first two presidential contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.

“They're saying, ‘OK, how's this going to look?'" Limbaugh said Wednesday, imagining Democrats' thinking. “Thirty-seven-year-old gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr. Man, Donald Trump.'"

Buttigieg didn't directly address Limbaugh's remarks. But at a town hall in Las Vegas Thursday night, he said, “I’m proud of my marriage I’m proud of my husband.”

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Radio show host Rush Limbaugh speaks at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation, on the similarities between the war on terrorism and the television show "24," in Washington June 23, 2006. REUTERS/Micah Walter (UNITED STATES)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 09: Rudy Guiliani, Marvin Shanken, Rickie Fowler and Rush Limbaugh during the Ernie Els Els for Autism pro-am at the Old Palm CC on March 9, 2015 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
Conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh is seen in this police booking mug shot taken on April 28, 2006. Limbaugh turned himself in to police in Florida on Friday and was charged with prescription drug fraud as part of a probe that began more than two years ago, authorities said. Limbaugh was released on $3,000 bail after being held for about one hour at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY REUTERS/Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office/Handout
PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Kate Rogers and Rush Limbaugh attend the Andrea Bocelli concert at The Mar-a-Lago Club on February 28, 2010 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Lucien Capehart/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 18: Radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh looks on from the sideline before a National Football League game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 18, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 13-10. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
- FEBRUARY 1: (L-R) Rush Limbaugh, Hulk Hogan and Nick Hogan attend Haute Living and Rolls Royce Superbowl Party Benefinting Bay Point Schools at Private Residence on February 1, 2007. (Photo by Tom Grizzle/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
PALM BEACH, FL - MARCH 10: Rush Limbaugh plays during the Els for Autism Pro-am at The PGA National Golf Club on March 10, 2014 in Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 6: Radio talk show host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh acknowledges cheers from fans as he stands on the sideline before a National Football League game between the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 6, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Ravens defeated the Steelers 23-20. (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 27: Two of the judges in the 2010 Miss America Pageant, saxophonist Dave Koz (L) and radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, speak during a news conference for the judges at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino January 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant will be held at the resort on January 30, 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
NOVI, MI - MAY 3: Radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh speaks at 'An Evenining With Rush Limbaugh' event May 3, 2007 in Novi, Michigan. The event was sponsored by WJR radio station as part of their 85th birthday celebration festivities. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
THE JAY LENO SHOW -- Air Date 09/24/2009 -- Episode 9 -- Pictured: (l-r) Political talk show host Rush Limbaugh, host Jay Leno outside by the Jay Leno Show racetrack on September 24, 2009 -- Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBCU Photo Bank
LOS ANGELES - JULY 6, 2005: Rush Limbaugh poses for a Portrait on July 6th, 2005 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry Langdon/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS - JANUARY 27: Four of the judges in the 2010 Miss America Pageant (L-R) singer/songwriter Brooke White, gymnast Shawn Johnson, radio talk show host and conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and Miss America 2002 Katie Harman pose after a news conference for the judges at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino January 27, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The pageant will be held at the resort on January 30, 2010. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh takes a break and smokes a cigar during his radio show. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rush Limbaugh points to the audience during his television show. (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Talk show host Rush Limbaugh prepares for his program at KSEV radio station in Houston. Limbaugh is known for his controversial conservative politics. (Photo by � Shepard Sherbell/CORBIS SABA/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rush Limbaugh Sells $3M of Betsy Ross Flag T-Shirts After Nike Pulls Sneaker Design
Radio talk show host and conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh looks on before introducing President Donald Trump to deliver remarks at a Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Mo, on Nov. 5, 2018. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
Krystal Ball, the former MSNBC host who now works as a news anchor for The Hill, is firing back at Rush Limbaugh after the conservative radio host alleged that she’d posted nude photos of herself on “Facebook or MySpace or you know, MyButt” when she “was 14 or 15.”
Krystal Ball, the former MSNBC host who now works as a news anchor for The Hill, is firing back at Rush Limbaugh after the conservative radio host alleged that she’d posted nude photos of herself on “Facebook or MySpace or you know, MyButt” when she “was 14 or 15.”
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Progressive talk show host Krystal Ball slams Rush Limbaugh for 'slut shaming' her with false claim
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Limbaugh's remarks were the latest tendentious turn in a career in which he's won an adoring audience among millions of conservative listeners, but condemnation from others for comments considered racist, sexist and offensive.

Buttigieg, 38, is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and has been married to his husband, Chasten, since 2018. Buttigieg was a U.S. Navy intelligence officer in Afghanistan, is a Harvard graduate and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in England.

Limbaugh said he envisioned Democrats concluding that “despite all the great wokeness and despite all the great ground that's been covered, that America's still not ready to elect a gay guy kissing his husband on the debate stage president."

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is challenging Buttigieg for the Democratic presidential nomination, assailed Limbaugh on ABC's “The View."

“I mean, my God,” said Biden, who called it “part of the depravity of this administration.” He added, “Pete and I are competitors, but this guy has honor, he has courage, he is smart as hell."

Trump, asked if Americans would vote for a gay man to be president, responded, “I think so.”

Still, Trump added: “I think there would be some that wouldn’t. I wouldn’t be among that group, to be honest with you." Trump spoke during an interview with Geraldo Rivera on Cleveland's Newsradio WTAM.

Some Capitol Hill Republicans said they disagreed with Limbaugh's remark, while others demurred.

“I'm just going to leave all that alone,” said conservative Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who said she'd not heard the comment. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, facing reelection this fall, also declined to comment.

“It’s a miscalculation as to where the country is at," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strong Trump supporter, told The Associated Press about Limbaugh's words. "I think the country is not going to disqualify somebody because of their sexual orientation.”

Asked if Limbaugh should retain the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which Trump bestowed last week during his State of the Union address, Graham said, “Well, my God. Free speech still exists.“

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said of Limbaugh, “He may disagree, as I do, with their policy positions, but the question is what their qualifications are, not other issues.” Portman announced his support for gay marriage in 2013 as he revealed that his son Will is gay.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., a moderate who is retiring in January, initially said he wasn't familiar with Limbaugh's remarks and declined to comment. His spokesman later emailed an Alexander statement that said: "There may be reasons not to vote for Mayor Buttigieg, but that’s not one of them. This is a tolerant country.”

A Buttigieg campaign spokesman declined to comment.

But the candidate has addressed criticism over his sexuality before. During a Des Moines, Iowa, rally in 2019, an audience member asked what he should tell his friends who say America isn't ready for a gay president. Buttigieg replied, “Tell your friends I said 'hi.'”

The former mayor has also framed his sexuality in religious terms.

"If me being gay was a choice, it was a choice that was made far, far above my pay grade," Buttigieg said. “If you've got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me. Your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”

According to government websites, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is for “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

Past winners have included Mother Teresa, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Frank Sinatra. Under Trump, the award's recipients have included golfer Tiger Woods, supply side economist Arthur Laffer and Edwin Meese III, who was a top aide to President Ronald Reagan.

The 69-year-old Limbaugh also said some Democrats may believe they should “get a gay guy kissing his husband on stage, ram it down Trump's throat and beat him in the general election. Really? Having fun envisioning that.”

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