Feature

Limbaugh: A costly attack on ‘a slut’

The outspoken conservative radio host sank to a new low with his denunciation of Sandra Fluke.

Republicans have a serious Rush Limbaugh problem, said David Horsey in LATimes.com. The outspoken conservative radio host sank to a new low last week with his “character assassination” of Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who joined Democrats in advocating that private health insurance cover the cost of contraception. In a grotesque display of misogyny, Limbaugh attacked Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute,” saying, “she’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception,” and then suggesting that she video herself having sex “so we all can watch.” More than 20 of Limbaugh’s sponsors have yanked their ads from his show, forcing him into a “grudging and very limited” apology. But Republicans timidly tiptoed around the issue, with presidential contenders Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney saying Limbaugh was guilty of a poor choice of words. As George Will said on ABC, “Republican leaders want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

Oh, come now, said Jonathan S. Tobin in Commentary​Magazine.com. Like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, Rush is an entertainer who sometimes engages in “rhetorical excesses.” Clumsily perhaps, he was trying to make the point that Georgetown law students are hardly oppressed because their Jesuit-run school objects to paying for their contraception. If the Left really objects to sexist attacks on women, said Kirsten Powers in TheDailyBeast.com, where are the condemnations of the “army of swine” in their own ranks? MSNBC’s Ed Schultz called radio host Laura Ingraham a “right-wing slut” last year, while HBO’s Bill Maher has called Sarah Palin a “dumb tw-t,” and worse.

Rush isn’t merely an entertainer like Maher, said Ross Douthat in NYTimes.com, nor even an ordinary political commentator. Despite his long history of offensive pronouncements, Limbaugh maintains a “totemic role in conservative discourse.” His rise to prominence came as Republicans regained majority status, giving him an aura of conservative purity akin to that of Ronald Reagan. This time, though, Limbaugh really hurt conservatives with his “troglodytic tastelessness,” said Michael Medved in TheDailyBeast.com. Democrats had framed the contraception debate as “a war on women,” while Republicans insisted it was an issue of “religious freedom.” By calling a female law student “a slut” and demanding her sex videos, Limbaugh played right into the Democrats’ hands. His apology wasn’t to his advertisers, or to Fluke—but to fellow Republicans.

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