The most senior Democrat in public office in Florida has said she will not comply with Governor Ron DeSantis’s wish that flags be flown at half-staff in honor of Rush Limbaugh, the hard-right talk radio “shock jock” who died last week from cancer.
“We will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry and division,” the state agriculture commissioner, Nikki Fried, said in a statement on Monday.
On Tuesday, she also said she was close to declaring a run for governor next year.
Limbaugh died last Wednesday, aged 70. Two days later, DeSantis said he would order flags lowered.
Fried said: “Lowering to half-staff the flag of the United States of America is a sacred honor that pays respect to fallen heroes and patriots.
“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.”
Limbaugh, who lived in Florida, rose to fame as one of the harshest voices on the American right, his invective aimed at women, African Americans, LGBTQ Americans and more. Last year, Donald Trump gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
On Friday, Fried tweeted: “Governor DeSantis is lowering Florida’s flags to half-staff for Rush Limbaugh. But he had no words for Congressman John Lewis. Priorities.”
Lewis, from Georgia, was a leading figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s who served with distinction in Congress. He died last year and was mourned widely.
On Tuesday, Fried spoke to CNN.
“The American flag should not be used and cannot be used as a political prop by Governor DeSantis,” she said. “He’s bending over backwards to honor a radio host who spent his entire career talking hate speech and talking bigotry and division and conspiracy theories.”
Fried said there were no penalties for not complying with an order to lower flags, adding: “We don’t want to penalise somebody for their beliefs.”
She was also asked if she was planning to run against DeSantis in 2022.
“Every single day,” she said, “it is becoming more and more clear that we have to get rid of Governor DeSantis. And as the only statewide elected Democrat in the state of Florida, there are a lot of people who are coming up to me and telling me that I am one of our best shots.
“So we are certainly looking into it. But again is becoming clearer every single day that we need to … end this hatred in our state. So it’s close to a yes.”