Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said on Monday that President Trump advised him to “never apologize” for his homophobic attacks targeting Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s sexuality.
Limbaugh said on his radio show that the president called him to talk about his comments last week when he claimed “Mr. Man Donald Trump” would “have fun” with the former South Bend mayor’s sexuality in a general election.
His remarks sparked bipartisan condemnations and prompted Buttigieg to respond on Sunday that he “doesn’t need a lecture on family values from Limbaugh.”
Limbaugh, who launched to bigoted attack days after receiving the Medal of Freedom – the nation’s top civilian honor, responded to Buttigieg on Monday by saying he “didn’t lecture him on family values” and sharing his conversation with the president on the matter.
“Hell, the president even called me about this!” Limbaugh said Monday. “He said, ‘Rush, I just got to tell you something. Never apologize. Don’t ever apologize.'”
“I had no idea this thing had even bubbled up,” Limbaugh said. “You know, I’m up doing the medical thing that I have to do here, and I wasn’t even aware of this.”
Limbaugh said he thinks people were upset about his comments because “low-information voters” did not know the candidate was gay.
“I think they think that there’s a lot of people that don’t know he’s gay and that I sort of dropped the dime on it and let people who otherwise didn’t know that Mayor Pete is gay,” he said. “I think that’s what they’re really mad about, that I even mentioned it.”
The conservative radio host said last week that Buttigieg’s sexual orientation may present a challenge to win over voters.
“A gay guy, 37 years old, loves kissing his husband on debate stages. Can you see Trump have fun with that?” Limbaugh said.
Buttigieg married his husband, Chasten Buttigieg, in 2018.
“I love my husband. I’m faithful to my husband. On stage we usually just go for a hug. But I love him very much, and I’m not going take lectures on family values from the likes of Rush Limbaugh,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday.
GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham pushed back against Limbaugh’s remarks, telling the Associated Press: “It’s a miscalculation as to where the country is at. I think the country is not going to disqualify somebody because of their sexual orientation.”
Ohio Senator Rob Portman said of Limbaugh, “He may disagree, as I do, with their policy positions, but the question is what their qualifications are, not other issues.” Portman announced his support for gay marriage in 2013 as he revealed that his son Will is gay.
“There may be reasons not to vote for Mayor Buttigieg, but that’s not one of them. This is a tolerant country,” Senator Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee, said in a statement.