WASHINGTON -- Rush Limbaugh received the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the 2020 State of the Union, just a day after the conservative radio host announced that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer.
During his address, President Donald Trump described Limbaugh as "a special man, someone beloved by millions of Americans," and called him "the greatest fighter and winner that you will ever meet."
Trump continued: "Rush, in recognition of all that you have done for our nation, the millions of people a day that you speak to and inspire, and all of the incredible work that you have done for charity, I am proud to announce tonight that you will be receiving our country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom."
First lady Melania Trump then presented Limbaugh with the medal as those seated nearby gave a standing ovation.
The White House announced the award, the highest civilian honor in the nation, in an earlier news release detailing invited guests of the president and first lady. In it, they described Limbaugh as "a champion of the Constitution, advocate of civic engagement and a committed patriot."
Limbaugh was seated next to the first lady in the congressional gallery for Tuesday's speech. He is widely credited as key to Republicans' takeover of Congress in 1994 and has strongly supported Trump and other Republicans.
Limbaugh has frequently been accused of hate-filled speech, including bigotry and blatant racism through his comments and sketches such as "Barack the Magic Negro," a song featured on his show that said former President Barack Obama "makes guilty whites feel good" and called Obama "black, but not authentically."
His popularity has survived brickbats and thrived despite personal woes. In 2003, Limbaugh admitted an addiction to painkillers and entered rehabilitation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.