Kriseman, Fried push back on DeSantis call to lower flags for Rush Limbaugh

The St. Petersburg mayor and agriculture commissioner announced their plans Monday.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. [ Times (2020) ]
Published Feb. 22, 2021|Updated Feb. 23, 2021

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried intend to defy a call by Gov. Ron DeSantis to lower flags to half-staff to honor conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who died last week.

It’s not yet clear which flags DeSantis’ may order lowered, and whether city flags will be expected to fly half-staff.

But it would be the first time during Kriseman’s administration the mayor hasn’t abided by a flag order from the state, according to Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby.

“In St. Pete we don’t honor hatred, racism, bigotry, homophobia, or anything else he has spewed over the years,” Kriseman tweeted on Monday.

City flags are already lowered at half-staff to honor Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy Michael Magli, who died last week after he was struck by a pickup truck. The sheriff’s office said the driver was fleeing deputies and had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the level at which Florida presumes impairment.

DeSantis also ordered the flag above the State Capitol and at the New Port Richey and St. Petersburg courthouses to be half-staffed on Tuesday, the day of Magli’s funeral.

Kriseman’s announcement followed one by Fried, the only statewide elected Democrat, that said she will direct offices within her Cabinet agency not to lower flags.

“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. “Therefore, 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 added that “our flags will remain flying high to celebrate the American values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.”

Fried oversees the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which includes nine regional licensing offices, 38 state forests and 23 agricultural law-enforcement inspection stations.

On Friday, DeSantis said Florida will lower flags to half-staff after funeral plans are set for Limbaugh, a Palm Beach resident who died Wednesday after a battle with cancer.

“When there’s things of this magnitude, once the date of interment for Rush is announced, we’re going to be lowering the flags to half-staff,” DeSantis said during a campaign-style press event at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport in West Palm Beach.

In a statement Wednesday, DeSantis praised Limbaugh for having an ability to “connect with his listeners across the fruited plain — the hard-working, God-fearing and patriotic Americans who were and are the subject of derision and ridicule by the legacy media.”

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Fried is widely rumored to be considering a run against DeSantis in 2022.