Trump turned the nation's highest civilian honor into a gift for his most loyal allies.
Donald Trump on Monday gave the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Rep. Devin Nunes, the California Republican who not only spread lies and conspiracy theories about the Russia investigation to help Trump, but who also had to recuse himself from an investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election over concerns that he was leaking classified information.
Trump awarded Nunes the highest civilian honor, praising Nunes' work, even though Nunes's report on the Russia investigation was discredited, and he received criticism for pushing Russian disinformation.
"Congressman Nunes pursued the Russia Hoax at great personal risk and never stopped standing up for the truth," the White House wrote in a news release announcing the award. "He had the fortitude to take on the media, the FBI, the Intelligence Community, the Democrat Party, foreign spies, and the full power of the Deep State."
Nunes — who infamously sued someone posing as a cow on Twitter after the account tweeted criticisms of Nunes's behavior — is one of just 20 people Trump has given the prestigious honor to over the past four years.
That's far fewer than Trump's predecessors. Former President Barack Obama gave 114 medals over his eight year tenure, while former President George W. Bush gave 78 over the course of two terms. Both men awarded the Medal of Freedom to a diverse group of actors, performers, philanthropists, and activists including Nelson Mandela, chef Julia Child, singer Aretha Franklin, LGBTQ activist Harvey Milk, the late astronaut-turned-U.S. Sen. John Glenn, and media mogul Oprah Winfrey, among others.
Unlike his predecessors, many of the people Trump has handed the award to are close personal allies, like Nunes. Only one of them is a woman.
Trump's other Medal of Freedom recipients include:
- Miriam Adelson, the wife of billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Together, the Adelsons have donated hundreds of millions to GOP causes and candidates — including Trump himself. In 2020 alone, the Adelsons gave $75 million to Trump's reelection effort.
- Arthur Laffer, an economist who served as an economic adviser to Trump's 2016 campaign. Laffer is the man behind the "Laffer Curve," a discredited economic theory on taxation that Republicans have used to slash taxes for years, claiming that doing so will actually increase revenue.
- Rush Limbaugh, a Trump-allied racist and sexist right-wing radio show host whose statements have landed him in hot water repeatedly for the past several decades.
- Lou Holtz, a former football coach who gave an offensive speech at the Republican National Convention in 2020 in which he criticized Joe Biden's commitment to the Catholic faith, leading to criticism.
Trump is also reportedly planning to give the Medal of Freedom to Rep. Jim Jordan, the Ohio Republican who has also spread lies and conspiracy theories to defend Trump's actions. Jordan previously came under fire for not reporting sexual abuse at the Ohio State University, where Jordan worked as a coach on the wrestling team in the late 1980s and early '90s.
Democrats have criticized Trump for awarding people like Nunes with the honor, with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) saying that giving the medal to Nunes proved that "Trump has no respect for the John Kennedy created" award.
"Some are saying Devin Nunes doesn’t deserve the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but I contend that it's the Presidential Medal of Freedom who truly doesn’t deserve this," Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) tweeted jokingly.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.