Conservative Radio Host Calls Biden 'Slanderous' for Suggesting Rush Limbaugh is Racist

Joe Biden
Former Vice President Joe Biden at a presidential campaign event in New Hampshire on February 5, 2020. Spencer Platt/Getty

A conservative talk radio host has accused former Vice President Joe Biden of being "slanderous" towards Rush Limbaugh after Biden suggested that past statements by Limbaugh were racist.

Limbaugh was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom during President Donald Trump's State of the Union address on Tuesday. Biden recalled past statements Limbaugh had made during his radio career at a CNN town hall event on Wednesday, suggesting some of the statements were disparaging towards African Americans in particular.

"I have to say, that is slanderous," said Hewitt on his radio show Thursday while responding to Biden's remarks. "Rush Limbaugh has zero racism. And to attribute it to him is slander."

Limbaugh announced Monday that he had been diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. The move by Trump to award the divisive talk show host the Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union on the following day was unprecedented. The decision provoked backlash from a number of critics besides Biden, some of whom also believe the conservative personality has history of racist rhetoric.

Biden's comments emphasized sympathy for Limbaugh's medical diagnosis, while condemning his alleged racism.

"Look, Rush Limbaugh spent his entire time on the air dividing people, belittling people, talking about how, talking about blacks in ways, African Americans in ways that... anyway, I do feel badly, I mean this sincerely, that he's suffering from a terminal illness," Biden said at the CNN event. "So, he has my empathy and sympathy no matter what his background is."

The former vice president also indicated that he believed Limbaugh was far from a worthy recipient of the medal, suggesting that he was awarded it as part of a political move by Trump.

"The idea that he... receives a medal that is of the highest honor that can be given to a civilian, I find, quite frankly, driven more by trying to maintain your right-wing political credentials than it is anything else," Biden said. "I mean, if you read some of the things that Rush has said, about people, their backgrounds, their ethnicity, how he speaks to them... I don't think he understands the American code, decency and honor."

"But look, this is Donald Trump," said Biden.

Although Hewitt singled out Biden's allegedly "slanderous" remarks, the former vice president was far from the first person to accuse Limbaugh of racism, with the accusation being made many times over the course of his decades-long career.

Some controversial moments that have inspired critics to label Limbaugh "racist" include the likening of NFL games to fights between "bloods and crips without any weapons," defending his right to use a racist slur and featuring a song on his radio show that referred to former President Barack Obama as "Barack the Magic Negro."

Newsweek reached out to Biden for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.