March 4, 2021

A Florida official has told staff to ignore Gov. Ron DeSantiss order to fly flags at half-staff for Rush Limbaugh because they must not celebrate hate speech
  • A Florida official told staff to ignore orders to fly flags at half-mast for Rush Limbaugh.
  • Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the controversial talk show host.
  • Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried refused saying the state must not “celebrate hate speech.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A Florida official has instructed her staff to ignore instructions from Gov. Ron DeSantis to fly state flags at half-staff to honor the recently-deceased conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, because doing so would “celebrate hate speech.”

“Lowering to half-staff the flag of the United States of America is a sacred honor that pays respect to fallen heroes and patriots,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democratic representative, in a statement Monday.

“It is not a partisan political tool. Therefore, I will notify all state offices under my direction to disregard the Governor’s forthcoming order to lower flags for Mr. Limbaugh – because we will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division,” she said.

Fried’s instructions mean that state offices under her purview will not lower flags to half-staff. The Florida Department of Agriculture oversees dozens of buildings, including regional offices, forests, and agricultural inspection stations.

Democrats had criticized Gov. DeSantis, a Republican, after he announced Friday that flags in Florida would be flown at half-staff to remember Limbaugh, who died with lung cancer last week at the age of 70.

“What we do when there’s things of this magnitude, once the date of interment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff,” said DeSantis at a rally last week, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Limbaugh was an influential figure in shaping the identity of the modern Republican Party but was widely criticized for his extensive record of making sexist, racist, and homophobic comments, Insider’s Conor Perrett reported.

“Lowering the flag of the United States is a high honor reserved for those who have honorably and bravely served our state and our nation,” said State Sen. Gary Farmer in a statement responding to DeSantis’s announcement last week.

“Unfortunately, Gov. DeSantis has now transformed this distinction into a partisan political tool to salute a man who served no other interests than his own and did his best to deeply divide a country along political fault lines.”

Florida’s state protocol says that flags should be flown at half-staff on certain holidays, if prominent state officials die, or if members of the Armed Forces, police officers, or firefighters from Florida die while on active duty.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that DeSantis had recently flown flags at half-staff when Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died in September, and when five people died as a result of the Capitol riot in Washington on January 6.