Limbaugh Takes Notes from Trump; Buttigieg Responds

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday February 19, 2020

When it comes to playing the American public, it would seem that even Rush Limbaugh has something to learn from Donald Trump.

Limbaugh recently prompted bipartisan criticism by envisioning a scenario in which openly gay Democratic 2020 hopeful Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, becomes the nominee to tun against Trump in the election later this year.

Limbaugh, a shock jock whose career has been defined by his racist, sexist, and homophobic commentary, told his radio audience that should Buttigieg and Trump debate each other in the course of the presidential campaign, American voters would witness a "gay guy kissing his husband on stage, next to Mr Man, Donald Trump" - a reference to Buttigieg's marriage to his husband Chasten, and to the candidate's frequent introductions of his husband at rallies.

Limbaugh went on to predict 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," recalled UK newspaper The Guardian.

Buttigieg's fellow Democratic hopefuls spoke out against Limbaugh's words, as did other top Democrats; even prominent Republicans weighed in, with Lindsey Graham saying that Limbaugh's comments were "a miscalculation as to where the country is at," and Trump himself saying that he would not be among those Americans who would refuse to vote for a candidate based merely on the fact that he was gay.

Buttigieg, who has calmly faced down homophobic hecklers on the campaign trail, shrugged off Limbaugh's words. "I love my husband," Buttigieg said, boiling down his central point to an easy soundbite.

Buttigieg went on to chide both Limbaugh's characterization of him "kissing" Chasten, and Limbaugh's status as a man who has been married not once, or twice, but four times. "Onstage we usually just go for the hug," Buttigieg said of his public displays of affection for Chasten. "But I love him very much and I'm not going to take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh."

There was speculation that Limbaugh was simply trying to sour voters on Buttigieg, assuming they would turn away in droves from a candidate once they found out he was gay. Limbaugh himself seemed to confirm this when he revisited his earlier comments on a subsequent radio program, saying, "I think they think that there's a lot of people that don't know he's gay and that I sort of dropped the dime on it and let people who otherwise didn't know that Mayor Pete is gay."

Limbaugh also said that Trump himself reached out to him to counsel him not to offer an apology for his controversial remarks, reported political news outlet The Hill.

"Hell, the president even called me about this!" claimed the 69-year-old shock jock during his Feb. 17 broadcast. "He said, 'Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize. Don't ever apologize.' "

It's a strategy that Trump himself has successfully embraced.

But Buttigieg was having none of it. During a CNN town hall on Feb. 18, the 38-year-old Millennial candidate - who, if elected, would be the youngest U.S. president in history - delivered a rhetorical body slam to both Limbaugh and Trump, cleanly delineating the moral distance between them.

"The idea of the likes of Rush Limbaugh or Donald Trump lecturing anybody on family values?" the candidate said, to applause from the town hall audience.

Buttigieg then added: "One thing about my marriage is, it's never involved me to send hush money to a porn star" - a direct reference to one of the many scandals that has surrounded Trump's presidency: Allegations that Trump authorized payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to prevent her from speaking out about an affair she allegedly had with Trump.

"If they want to debate family values, let's debate family values," Buttigieg went on to say. "I'm ready."

The porn star reference made for such a smart, concise line that CNN showcased it in a tweet.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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