JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said she is ordering state offices she controls to ignore an upcoming order to lower flags to half-staff to honor conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who died last week.
“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,” Fried wrote in a statement. “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. Lowering the flag should always reflect unity, not division, and raising our standards, not lowering them. Our flags will remain flying high to celebrate the American values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.”
Fried cited state flag protocol that says “the flag is to be lowered primarily for federal officials including the President, Vice President, Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, Speaker of the U.S. House, members of Congress from Florida, prominent State of Florida officials, and Florida law enforcement officers, firefighters, and members of the Armed Forces from Florida who have died in the line of duty.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Miami) called the governor’s decision “an embarrassment to Florida.” Florida Senate Democratic leader Gary Farmer also criticized DeSantis’ flag order, calling it “a partisan political tool to salute a man who served no other interests than his own and did his best to deeply divide a country along political fault lines.”
DeSantis, who called Limbaugh “an absolute legend” and “a great person,” said he would give more details on the dates to lower the flags once the date of Limbaugh’s internment was announced. Limbaugh, 70, a Palm Beach resident, died of lung cancer.
The statement from the commissioner marks the latest in an ongoing back-and-forth between Fried, the only Democrat elected to a statewide office, and DeSantis, a Republican.
It’s expected that Fried will challenge DeSantis for governor when he is up for reelection in 2022.