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Mo. House speaker maintains support of Limbaugh induction as women's groups protest at Capitol
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) ' Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley has been getting a lot of deliveries from women's rights groups since his decision to commission a bronze bust of Rush Limbaugh to be placed among other honorees inside the state Capitol's Hall of Famous Missourians.
Two weeks ago, one group wheeled 600 rolls of toilet paper into the middle of his Capitol office, waving signs and telling the speaker to "Flush Rush!"
On Wednesday, another round of protesters marched around the Capitol's north side before piling up pages with about 35,000 petition signatures outside Tilley's third-floor corner office.
The Perryville Republican announced the honor for the conservative radio host days after Limbaugh described a Georgetown law student as a "slut" and a "prostitute" for her testimony about birth control before congressional Democrats. Limbaugh has since apologized for his language.
The protesting groups say Limbaugh's remarks were not just disrespectful to the law student, but to all women. Jessica Peters, a Planned Parenthood volunteer from Kansas City, said the remarks should preclude Limbaugh from having his bust placed in the Hall of Famous Missourians.
"I think that words have a lot of power to them," said Peters, 27. "If we say that it's OK for somebody to call somebody a 'slut,' then it's OK for people to use name-calling."
Despite the protests, Tilley hasn't given any indication he's thinking about changing his mind about the honor. Tilley said Limbaugh, who is from Cape Girardeau, is an important ' if controversial ' figure in Missouri's history.
"He's transformed talk radio, he's the most popular radio personality in the country and he's from our home state of Missouri," Tilley said. "Does he say controversial things? Yes. Does he say provocative things? Yes. Does he say things that I disagree with? Yes. But he certainly has been successful."
Limbaugh himself does not appear to have commented on Tilley's decision, or the backlash that followed its announcement. In an emailed statement Wednesday, Premiere Networks, which syndicates Limbaugh's weekday radio show, took a neutral stance.
"Premiere Networks remains committed to providing its listeners with access to a broad range of opinion and commentary without condoning or agreeing with the opinions, comments or attempts at humor expressed by our on-air talent," the statement read. "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, and the right of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions."
Hall of Famous Missourians inductees have their busts displayed on the third floor of the state Capitol. Several dozen people have been chosen by Missouri House speakers through the years, including President Harry Truman, Mark Twain, Walt Disney, George Washington Carver and Stan Musial.