LEE COUNTY — Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would order flags to be lowered at half staff in honor of recently deceased conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. But some Democratic leaders in the state say they plan to defy that order.
DeSantis is preparing to issue an executive order on the matter, even as members of his own cabinet are voicing opposition.
Florida Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, is among those who says she plans to defy DeSantis' order to lower flags to half staff.
"I will notify all state offices under my direction to disregard the Governor's forthcoming order to lower flags for Mr. Limbaugh — because we will not celebrate hate speech, bigotry, and division,” Fried said in a statement released Monday.
Peter Bergerson, a professor at Florida Gulf Coast University, once taught Limbaugh when he was a student at Southeast Missouri State. He said Limbaugh was always controversial in life, so it’s no surprise that his death is stirring up another debate. But he said, in deciding to lower flags, the DeSantis is thinking less about the talk radio legend and more about his political future.
"Some people see him as a hero, and others see him as the devil incarnated," Bergerson said. "Is (DeSantis' order) out of place? Well, that’s a political judgment."
It’s a political judgment many aren’t happy about, like one teacher in Lee County, who posted an email he sent to his school district on Facebook.
“As a teacher where a majority of our students are females, people of color, immigrants, and children of immigrants, it would force them to honor their abuser,” the teacher wrote.
The district has not yet decided whether it will comply with the DeSantis' executive order. Despite those negative reactions, Bergerson thinks it's a pure political move that could pay dividends.
"This is bringing some political advantage to the governor by doing it, and he’s up for reelection next year, and the Rush voters will remember that," Bergerson said.
Bergerson said, for localities that refuse to comply with the order, it could do more harm than good.
"If some county or some school district refused, frankly they would just be making an additional case for the governor. It would prolong the controversy, and he’s going to win," Bergerson said.
DeSantis said Friday that he would order flags to half-staff on the day of Limbaugh’s internment, which has not yet been decided.
This story was originally published by Rob Manch on WFTX in Fort Myers, Florida.