WASHINGTON – During his State of the Union speech, President Donald Trump awarded longtime conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor.
In a highly unusual moment, Trump asked First Lady Melania Trump to place the prestigious medal on Limbaugh,who announced Monday he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.
“Here tonight is a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans who just received a Stage 4 advanced cancer diagnosis,” Trump said of Limbaugh. “This is not good news, but what is good news is that he is the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet.”
Trump and Limbaugh have occasionally golfed together and were seen eating lunch together at Trump’s West Palm Beach golf club just before Christmas. During his speech, Trump thanked Limbaugh for his“tireless devotion to our country” as the conservative commentator broke into tears.
Limbaugh revealed his diagnosis during his radio show on Monday, calling “one of the most difficult days in recent memory for me.”
He said his cancer had been confirmed by “two medical institutions back on Jan. 20” and noted that he was undergoing treatment. Following the announcement on Monday Trump tweeted Limbaugh was a “great guy” and a “fantastic political talent.”
“There is nobody like him. Looking for a speedy recovery for our friend!,” he tweeted.
The president has bestowed the medal 14 times, including to athletes Tiger Woods, Jerry West and Babe Ruth.The mid-speech award came as a surprise as the medal is traditionally given out at the White House. Past presidents have awarded politicians, artists and scientists with the prestigious medal.
Trump told television anchors at a private lunch earlier Tuesday he planned to award Limbaugh the civilian award as early as next week.
Trump touted the U.S. economy in his State of the Union address, claiming that his administration “shattered the mentality of “American decline.”
Contributing: Anika Reed and Maria Puente