Our Opinion: Selection raises lightning rod at Capitol gallery

House Speaker Steve Tilley has raised a lightning rod at the Capitol with his plan to honor bombastic radio personality Rush Limbaugh.

Advertisers are fleeing Limbaugh’s talk show after he characterized law student Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Those comments came after Fluke joined the controversial, national debate concerning President Obama’s plan to compel health insurers to cover contraception.

Limbaugh has apologized, but the firestorm continues and now has spread to Tilley’s plan to induct Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

The hall within the Capitol honors notable Missourians with a bronze bust and description of their contributions. Inductees are selected by the House speaker and costs are funded through private donations. Tilley estimates each costs about $10,000.

Tilley said his selection of Limbaugh was made about three months ago. The speaker’s most recent inductee was Negro Leagues baseball player Buck O’Neil and another announced future inductee is Dred Scott, the slave who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom.

Tilley and Limbaugh both hail from southeastern Missouri, and the speaker on Monday defended his choice, pointing out a radio talk show host “is going to say things that are provocative and controversial.”

We understand moderation may be a road to media oblivion in talk radio. In contrast, provoking controversy attracts listeners who applaud or disdain the host’s point of view.

Tilley said he is proud of Limbaugh’s accomplishments, but failed to enumerate what they are.

We concede Limbaugh is an accomplished showman and manipulator, but — other than personal fame — what contributions has he made to Missouri?

We find it reprehensible that his deliberate effort to provoke controversy has descended into personal attacks against people willing to join the public discussion on important, timely issues.

Nominations to the Capitol gallery traditionally have been the province of the House speaker.

Limbaugh’s nomination raises a question of whether additional input or criteria is desirable for induction into the Hall of Famous Missourians.

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