Rush Limbaugh in his studio during his radio show (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Rush Limbaugh in his studio during his radio show (Photo by mark peterson/Corbis via Getty Images)

Democratic legislators spoke in the chamber Tuesday about the role Rush Limbaugh played in spreading disinformation, most recently about the coronavirus and the Nov. 3 election, which prompted the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

Once again, Wisconsin Republicans blocked a resolution to recognize Black History Month, an annual trend in the legislature that has almost reached the point of becoming a tradition.

This year, in addition to voting down a motion by Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) to vote on the Black History Month resolution, Senate Republicans immediately afterwards voted to honor Rush Limbaugh, the talk radio personality who was openly racist, sexist, and homophobic and brought conspiracy theories into mainstream conservatism.

On Tuesday, Johnson opened her comments on the Limbaugh resolution stating she would read some of Limbaugh’s quotes, at which point some of her Republican colleagues stood and left the chamber. Johnson said she was shocked by their response.

“There are all Republicans on this resolution so I’m sure that you guys have heard this before,” Johnson said. “If he has an ‘unforgettable voice’ and if his ideals are truly conservative ideals you guys should be proud of this.”

Johnson pointed out that while she and her African American colleagues could not get a vote on honoring Black History Month, again, “we have to sit in this body and honor somebody like Rush Limbaugh who was a homophobic, xenophobic, racist. Ra-cist. Racist.”

When the Assembly debated the bill, Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) said that when she was first elected, a bill honoring Limbaugh would not have made it to the floor. 

“Because the leadership then would have realized how hurtful this is and the assembly does not want to honor what Rush Limbaugh did with his life,” Sinicki said. 

To her, it was symbolic of how far state Republicans have changed over the years, and not for the better. 

“He created such divisiveness in this country,” Sinicki said. “There are people I haven’t talked to in years because of people like Rush Limbaugh.”

Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-West Point) said that Limbaugh made “hundreds of millions of dollars by appealing to the worst in us.”

“Rush Limbaugh was a pig. He was mean-spirited. He was a bully,” Erpenbach said. “He started off as a joke and a minority of the people fell for it.”

Erpenbach and other legislators also pointed to Limbaugh as the pivotal creator and disseminator of disinformation, most recently about the coronavirus and the Nov. 3 election, which prompted the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol on Jan. 6.

“I lay that at the feet of Rush Limbaugh and others like him because of the words he chose to use,” Erpenbach said. “He might not have believed them; he made a lot of money off them whether he believed them or not.”

“Words matter. Some people showed up. Some people died,” Erpenbach continued. “The Capitol was under siege. Senators and the vice president had to hide because of Rush Limbaugh.”

Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) asked her colleagues to think about the message the resolution would send to their colleagues, to Wisconsinites across the state and to the nation as a whole. 

“If you want to see us be a better Wisconsin and a better body, vote no,” Taylor said. 

“But if you support that nonsense then vote yes and show yourself for what you are.”

In the Senate, the resolution passed 18-12 along party lines, and in the Assembly it passed 56-35. Only Rep. Jessie Rodriguez (R-Oak Creek) crossed party lines to vote against it. Senators Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Eric Wimberger (R-Green Bay) were present but did not vote.