Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh was inducted into the Hall of Famous Missourians on Monday during a secretive ceremony in the State Capitol as police stood guard to keep out any uninvited political opponents of the sometimes divisive radio show host.
Limbaugh, a native of Cape Girardeau in southeast Missouri, addressed a crowd of more than 100 Republicans during a closed-door event in the Missouri House chamber. Speaking from the chamber's dais, he thanked his family for their support throughout his career, denounced liberals and Democrats as "deranged," then helped lift a curtain off a bronze bust of himself, which he hugged for photographs.
The timing of the ceremony was kept secret until shortly before it occurred, and then only Republican lawmakers, other invited guests and the media were allowed into the chamber to watch -- an attempt to avoid any public disruption after Limbaugh's selection was criticized by Democrats, some women's groups and other political foes.
Limbaugh, 61, arranged for a guest host to handle his radio show Monday so he could be at the Missouri Capitol. He repeatedly declared how humbled he was by the honor.
"I'm stunned. I'm not speechless, but close to it," Limbaugh said to the laughter of the friendly crowd. "I'm literally quite unable to comprehend what's happening to me today."
The talk show host was selected for the Hall of Famous Missourians by term-limited House Speaker Steven Tilley, a Republican who like Limbaugh is from southeast Missouri. Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's administration released a memo Monday indicating that a state board -- not the House speaker -- has the authority to determine what items are displayed in the Capitol Rotunda.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, also asserted that Tilley has no legal authority to order Limbaugh's bust to be placed in the Capitol Rotunda.
"The secrecy and exclusion of the public demonstrates that even Republicans are embarrassed at honoring someone who recently called a female college student with whom he disagreed a 'sl. .t ' and a 'prostitute,' " Talboy said.
Limbaugh's selection for the Missouri honor was made public in early March, shortly after he made those comments about a female law school student after she testified before Democrats in Congress about health insurance for contraception. Limbaugh later apologized.