Trump to Award Rush Limbaugh Medal of Freedom, Invites Him to State of the Union Address

A day after Rush Limbaugh announced he had advanced lung cancer, President Donald Trump told network news anchors Tuesday he was planning on giving the radio host the Medal of Freedom.

The president did not provide a timeline for the award ceremony, but said that it would happen sometime in the next few months, a person familiar with the discussion told The New York Times. Trump also said he hoped Limbaugh would be able to attend tonight's State of the Union address. His comments were made at the traditional off-the-record lunch with television news anchors prior to the State of the Union address.

Limbaugh, 69, announced Monday on his nationally syndicated radio show that he received a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer earlier this month. He told listeners that he'd have to miss some episodes of his show as he undergoes treatment.

"I wish I didn't have to tell you this, and I thought about not telling anybody," Limbaugh said. "I thought about trying to do this without anybody knowing because I don't like making things about me, but there are going to be days that I'm not going to be able to be here, because I'm undergoing treatment or I'm reacting to treatment, and I know that would inspire all sorts of curiosity with people wondering what's going on."

Limbaugh has long been a staunch supporter of Trump, and Trump has praised the host as well. Trump allegedly personally enjoys giving his friends the Medal of Freedom, people close to Trump told CNN.

Rush Limbaugh Donald Trump
Rush Limbaugh, left, poses with President Donald Trump at a 2018 Make America Great Again rally in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Trump said at in an off-the-record lunch Tuesday that he wanted to award Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award in the United States alongside the Congressional Gold Medal. The award honors those who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."

Trump has also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer, Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court Alan Page, philanthropist Miriam Adelson, former Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and sports stars Roger Staubach, Tiger Woods, Bob Cousy, Jerry West, Mariano Rivera and Roger Penske. He has also awarded posthumous Medals of Freedom to singer Elvis Presley, baseball legend Babe Ruth and Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

So far, Trump has awarded 19 Medals of Freedom, and Limbaugh would be the 20th. The record for most Medals of Freedom awarded by a president goes to President Barack Obama, who awarded 123. President Ronald Reagan awarded the next-most, 102 Medals of Freedom. On average, fewer than 11 Medals of Freedom per year have been awarded since 1993. The award was established by executive order in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.