Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh is in trouble yet again for an ugly assault on Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student. Calling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” was awful enough but he also said of Fluke that she insists on “being paid to have sex” and that “she was having so much sex that she could hardly walk to the hearing room” — to testify at a congressional hearing.
Since Limbaugh had not yet plumbed the depths of his salacious being, he said that in return for paying for women’s birth control, he wanted videos made of the sex acts, so those paying for the birth control — including him, of course — could get a return on their money.
Rush Limbaugh was not just launching an attack on Sandra Fluke, who is well-informed on the birth control issue, he was launching an assault on all women who use birth control at some time — an estimated 99 percent of all women — by creating the impression that all these women are getting contraceptive assistance for free. Women who have birth control coverage in their health insurance, pay for it in their premiums. Others pay for it through Planned Parenthood, drug stores and the like.
Limbaugh also distorted Sandra Fluke’s testimony before a congressional committee by implying that she testified about her own sexual experiences, whereas Fluke specifically testified about the birth control issue and recounted the experience of someone she knows who has had severe medical complications for failing to use a contraceptive.
What passes for humor among the Limbaugh dittoheads is his promise to purchase enough aspirin to allow all of the females at Georgetown University to hold aspirin tablets between their knees. Limbaugh’s pathetic attempt at satire stems from Rick Santorum’s chief donor saying that in the old days women practiced birth control by holding aspirin tablets between their knees.
As the storm of protest mounted against Limbaugh, Bay Buchanan appeared on national television to label Limbaugh “brilliant.” Other die hard Limbaugh supporters used the classic defense whenever Limbaugh gets in trouble: they say he is “just an entertainer” and what he says should not be taken seriously; however, millions of dittoheads take him very seriously. It is not known if Miss and Mrs. Dittohead are cleaving quite as firmly to his words now.
I had an experience in regard to the dittohead mentality as a poll worker in a precinct located in a Republican enclave in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As word filtered in that Barack Obama was defeating John McCain, the GOP poll workers became noticeably glum and depressed. One obvious Limbaugh dittohead told another dittohead standing next to me: “We need to find out what Rush says.”
Besides the “just an entertainer” defense, political conservatives desperately search for a liberal or even a Democratic moderate who has said something somewhat similar, whenever Rush Limbaugh releases another spray of his verbal bile. This is called equivalence, meaning that the two statements cancel one another out. The major problem with this kind of weaseling out is that conservatives, especially the hard-right variety, charge liberals with failure to take personal responsibility for their actions. They, themselves, avoid personal responsibility like it is the plague.
Rush Limbaugh initially apologized on his web site but that apology was limited to “My choice of words was not the best.” On March 5, he apologized on his radio show but that apology was limited to the use of the words “slut” and “prostitute.” Limbaugh has devoted hours of radio time to the current birth control flareup, and if using nonfactual anti-women language were a criminal offense, prosecutors would have a rich trove of comments on which to draw.
As of today, by one count, 35 advertisers have pulled or suspended their advertising. Besides a more fulsome, contrite apology from Rush Limbaugh, there should be an apology from the advertisers. If I were to write it, it would go something like this: “Ever since we began advertising on Mr. Limbaugh’s radio show, our corporation has stood silently by when Mr. Limbaugh made nonfactual comments that were clearly anti-women and comments that were racist in nature; also, he routinely skewered his political opponents with language that has gone well beyond the bounds of reasoned discourse.
“We deeply apologize for our silence and our failure to take any action to try to induce Mr.Limbaugh to radically change his ways as a condition to the continuance of our advertising.”
Besides a show of contrition from Limbaugh’s advertisers, this is a time for Republican leaders to issue full-bore denunciations of Rush Limbaugh. In the past, whenever a Republican leader said anything even mildly critical of Limbaugh, his counterattack was so fierce that the offending leader felt no choice but to meekly apologize. The Republican presidential contenders have become so tongue-tied in response to Limbaugh’s attack on birth control that words are unable to issue out of their mouths.
The person who has come shining bright out of the societal mess created by Rush Limbaugh is Sandra Fluke. Her words have been measured but forceful; she has displayed a firm grasp of the birth control issue; and she has not knuckled down to Limbaugh’s media power and has refused to accept a non-apology apology.
An Afterword: Studies have shown that spacing of pregnancies is a critical factor in women’s health. Placing obstacles to obtaining contraceptives is a threat to women’s health.