Miriam Adelson, the physician wife of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in an ceremony in the East Room of the White House today, along with six others. Several awardees, including Elvis Presley and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, received their medals post-humously.
Adelson and her husband have been increasingly prominent funders of Republican Party politicians in the US since they backed Newt Gingrich’s failed bid for president in 2006.
The Israeli-born medal recipient, who runs a clinic that fights drug addiction, has said the party’s values aren’t always her own. “I don’t agree with the Republican stance on abortion,” Mrs. Adelson said in 2014. “Religion shouldn’t be political. But nothing is perfect. Supporting a free-market society and Israel are more important issues.”
The Adelsons were initially reluctant Trump supporters, funneling millions instead to Republicans in Congressional races in 2016, as Quartz wrote earlier:
The couple are the largest supporters to the “Senate Leadership Fund,” linked to Mitch McConnell, which claims it has one goal—“to protect and expand the Republican Senate Majority.” In 2016, the couple donated $46 million to the fund, followed by Karl Rove’s One Nation, which donated about $22 million and works with the Senate Leadership fund to support the same politicians. They also supported Future45, an anti-Trump PAC with the tagline “America Deserves Better.”
But they made an abrupt about-face after Trump won the primary, earning the couple a seat at Trump’s inauguration.
Mrs. Adelson may have pushed Trump’s controversial move of the US embassy to Jerusalem. “There’s a theory that Miriam is the real driver on a lot of these issues,” said Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada said when the move was announced. She may be the one that “really has a greater ideological commitment” than her husband, when it comes to Israel. Thanks to their donations, both of the Adelsons can “pick up the phone and call the White House,” Green said.
According to the White House pool reporter who attended the medal ceremony, “after putting the medal on Miriam Adelson, Trump turned to her husband and waved, so Sheldon could take a picture on his phone. He waved back.”