Limbaugh: Trump said not to apologize for homophobic rhetoric

Yesterday offered a peek, not only into how Trump responds to ugly rhetoric, but also into how he encourages his allies to respond to public outrage.
Image: Rush Limbaugh celebrates after he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by first lady Melania Trump at the State of the Union on Feb. 4, 2020.
Rush Limbaugh celebrates after he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by first lady Melania Trump at the State of the Union on Feb. 4, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

Two weeks ago, Donald Trump rewarded Rush Limbaugh with the nation's highest civilian honor. Whether the president did so despite or because of the right-wing host's awful record was the subject of some debate.

Nevertheless, a week later, Limbaugh helped demonstrate why he was such an unfortunate choice. Taking aim at Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation, the host told listeners, "They're sitting there and they're looking at Mayor Pete -- a 37-year-old gay guy, mayor of South Bend, loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage. And they're saying, okay, how's this going to look, a 37-year-old gay guy kissing his husband onstage next to Mr. Man Donald Trump?" (Buttigieg, for the record, is 38.)

We knew that Limbaugh's comments sparked some bipartisan pushback. What we didn't know is that Donald Trump, according to Limbaugh, personally called the right-wing host to encourage him not to apologize. From the Media Matters transcript:

"Hell, the president even called me about this. The president checks in every now and then to see how I'm doing. He's such a nice guy.... And he said 'Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize, don't ever --' and I said, 'For what?'"

It was a peek, not only into how the president responds to ugly rhetoric, but also into how Trump encourages his friends to respond to public outrage.

He doesn't express regret when he crosses lines of decency, and if Limbaugh's version of events is correct, Trump doesn't want to see those like him be conciliatory, either.

As for Buttigieg, the former mayor said at a Las Vegas town hall yesterday, "The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values -- I mean, sorry but, one thing about my marriage is it's never involved me having to send hush money to a porn star after cheating on my spouse with him or her. So they wanna debate family values? Let's debate family values. I'm ready."