WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump awarded GOP megadonor Miriam Adelson the nation’s highest civilian honor on Friday, presenting her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Recognizing her medical and philanthropic work, the president lauded the Israel-born Adelson for funding substance abuse centers and pro-Israel projects, including Birthright.
“To protect the sacred heritage of the Jewish faith, Miriam and Sheldon have supported Jewish schools, Holocaust memorial organizations, and helped Jewish Americans visit the Holy Land,” Trump said during a reception in the White House’s East Room.
Adelson is also, along with her husband, the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, one of the largest funders of the Republican Party and conservative causes.
“A medical doctor, Miriam has dedicated her life to fighting addiction, something we’re all becoming all too familiar with,” Trump said at one point. The president’s brother Fred died young because of his alcoholism.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2018
They were major proponents of Trump’s decision last year to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and formally move the US embassy there, which the president recognized during Friday’s ceremony.
After asking the Adelson family to stand, he said, “They were very happy to see the embassy move to Jerusalem. They were very happy about that. So congratulations on that also. They fought very hard on that.”
Miriam Adelson said she is “deeply humbled and moved by this exceptional honor.”
“Liberty is at the heart of my decades of work against substance abuse. Drug dependency is enslavement, for the user and his or her family and society, and treatment an emancipation,” she said in a statement released Thursday.
Adelson is a doctor, philanthropist and humanitarian. She and her husband are among the nation’s most powerful Republican donors. She was one of seven people Trump recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Friday.
The other recipients included retiring Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, one of the longest-serving senators in US history; Alan Page, who was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court after an NFL career with the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears; and Roger Staubach, the Hall of Fame Dallas Cowboys quarterback.
Posthumous honors were granted to Elvis Presley, Babe Ruth and Antonin Scalia, the conservative Supreme Court justice.
Miriam Adelson, 73, is an Israeli-born, naturalized US citizen who earned a medical degree from Tel Aviv University and founded a pair of drug abuse treatment and research centers in Las Vegas and Tel Aviv. She and her husband own two newspapers: the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Israel Hayom.
The Adelsons gave Trump’s presidential campaign a $30 million boost in the final months of the 2016 race. The couple followed up this election cycle by donating $100 million to the Republican Party for last week’s midterms.
At one point in the award ceremony, while Trump was recognizing Miriam Adelson, he looked for Sheldon in the audience. “You didn’t make the front row,” Trump said. “He’s probably angry.”
AP contributed to this report.