JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri -- While advertisers flee his radio show, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is poised to be added to the Hall of Famous Missourians in the state Capitol.
Missouri House Speaker Steven Tilley said Monday that he decided to honor Limbaugh about three months ago. He is defending his choice, saying Limbaugh is among the world's best-known radio personalities.
Limbaugh's show has lost nine advertisers since he referred last week to a female law student involved in the national debate about insurance for contraception as a "slut" and "prostitute." Limbaugh has since apologized.
Tilley, a Republican who like Limbaugh is from southeastern Missouri, noted that other Missourians selected for the hall have made controversial statements, including writer Mark Twain who was the first inductee nearly three decades ago.
"It's not the hall of universally loved Missourians. It's the Hall of Famous Missourians," said Tilley, who's from Perryville. Limbaugh is a Cape Girardeau native.
One group, called Progress Missouri, has started an online petition against Limbaugh's induction, and several Missouri Democrats objected Monday to the choice. Some said it could be particularly divisive and might cheapen and degrade the honor for the others who have been selected.
"I'd like to think when we walk a group of schoolchildren through (the hall) that we're proud of who's out there, and I don't see that being the case here," said Rep. Sara Lampe, a Democrat from Springfield.
Others selected this year are late Negro Leagues baseball player Buck O'Neil and Dred Scott, a slave who sued unsuccessfully for his freedom in a famous court case.
Tilley said he is proud of Limbaugh's accomplishments and that a radio talk show host is "going to say things that are provocative or controversial."
Controversy has swirled around Limbaugh since his comments last week about 30-year-old Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, who was involved in the national debate about insurance for contraception. Fluke testified in favor of health care policy that would compel her Jesuit college's health plan to cover birth control.
She was invited to testify before a U.S. House committee, but Republican lawmakers barred her from testifying. She spoke to the Democratic lawmakers at an unofficial session.
Limbaugh said Fluke was seeking to be "paid to have sex." A day later he said: "If we're going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke. And that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we're getting for our money."
Despite an apology from Limbaugh, his radio show has lost nine advertisers and at least one radio station has dropped the program.
There is no timeline for when Limbaugh will be inducted. Scott also is yet to be enshrined. A ceremony for O'Neil was held last week in the Missouri House Chamber.
Inductees into the Hall of Famous Missourians have their busts displayed in the state Capitol. Several dozen people have been chosen by Missouri House speakers through the years. They include President Harry Truman, Walt Disney, George Washington Carver, St. Louis Cardinals baseball player Stan Musial and journalist Walter Cronkite.
Busts are funded through donations, and Tilley estimated each costs about $10,000.
Tilley confirmed his selection of Limbaugh and Scott after the liberal-leaning blog "Fired Up! Missouri" published a post on Monday, noting the website of a Kansas City sculptor preparing busts for Limbaugh and Scott.