Florida Governor Ron DeSantis faces yet more trouble as officials openly defy his order to fly flags at half-staff to honor the late Rush Limbaugh. Florida’s agriculture commissioner Nikki Fried has told her offices to disregard the governor’s instructions, saying the gesture is meant to inspire unity rather than honor such a divisive figure, The Hill reports. 

“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 said. “We will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry and division.”

Limbaugh died last week of lung cancer, prompting widespread mourning from conservative corners. Others, however, were less sympathetic. Opponents reminded the public how he had routinely attacked victims, running “AIDS updates” when prominent figures died, mocking the disabled and comparing a teenage Chelsea Clinton to a dog, all of which trended highly on social media after his death. 

DeSantis was among those honoring Limbaugh, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from Donald Trump. On Friday, he called Limbaugh “an absolute legend, a friend of mine and just a great person,” announcing that flags would be flown at half-staff when Limbaugh was interred, CNN reports.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19 Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has come under fire for his handling of the public health response to COVID-19 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / JOE RAEDLE

The move didn’t seem to align with standard protocol, which only calls for flag-lowering when a Florida state-level official dies or when an armed forces member is killed in active duty. Criticism from liberals was immediate.

“Any move to lower our flag in deference to a man who helped drive the hatred and inflame the prejudices against marginalized groups, people of color, women, and anyone who did not look like him or think like him is wrong, and should be rescinded," said Gary Farmer, Florida’s Senate Democratic leader.

DeSantis was already in hot water after threatening to relocate a COVID-19 clinic entirely after it was found to be serving exclusively the whitest and richest residents of a county.