President Donald Trump recognized talk radio legend Rush Limbaugh during his State of the Union Address Tuesday, awarding him the Medal of Freedom.
Limbaugh, who announced his diagnosis at the end of his program Monday, was seated in the gallery above the House chamber next to First Lady Melania Trump, who tied the medal around the conservative icon’s neck.
“Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans, who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis. This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet: Rush Limbaugh, thank you for your decades of tireless devotion to our country,” President Trump said.
A bearded Limbaugh appeared genuinely surprised as he received two standing ovations — one when he was introduced and another when the award of the medal was announced.
“Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and that you inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” the president said.
“I will now ask the first lady of the United States to present you with the honor,” the president added as Limbaugh began tearing up.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sat during the presentation, offering no response or applause.
“It’s a struggle for me because I had to inform my staff earlier today. I can’t escape,” Limbaugh said during his Monday program. “Even though people are telling me it’s not the way to look at it, I can’t help but feel that I’m letting everybody down with this. But the upshot is that I have been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer, diagnosis confirmed by two medical institutions back on January 20th. I first realized something was wrong on my birthday weekend, January 12th.
“I wish I didn’t have to tell you this, and I thought about not telling anybody. I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing, ’cause I don’t like making things about me,” he continued.
“But there are going to be days that I’m not gonna be able to be here because I’m undergoing treatment or I’m reacting to treatment, and I know that that would inspire all kinds of curiosity with people wondering what’s going on.”