Rush Limbaugh's 'slut' apology: 5 reasons it won't silence his critics

Limbaugh takes the unusual step of apologizing for his incendiary on-air comments about Georgetown student Sandra Fluke. But "I'm sorry" may not be enough

Rush Limbaugh in 2006
(Image credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Saturday, after days of being hammered by the media and abandoned by several longtime national sponsors, radio host Rush Limbaugh issued an apology to Sandra Fluke. The Georgetown law student had testified in favor of President Obama's birth control insurance mandate at a congressional hearing last week, prompting Limbaugh to call her a "slut" and "prostitute," saying that if taxpayers have to pay for birth control pills for Fluke and her fellow "feminazis," then the government was essentially subsidizing sex, and "we want you to post the [sex] videos online so we can all watch." In apologizing, Limbaugh said he regretted the "insulting word choices" in his "attempt to be humorous." After the apology, lawmakers in both parties continued to criticize him and more sponsors dropped his show — seven so far. Why hasn't Limbaugh's apology ended the controversy? Here, five theories:

1. Rush didn't really apologize

Limbaugh's rambling statement belongs in "the bulging archive of inadequate apologies issued by celebrities and media figures whose egos just won't allow for contrition," says Eric Wemple in The Washington Post. Rush could have just said, "I sincerely apologize to Sandra Fluke." But no, Limbaugh had to insert his "incriminating verbiage" about word choice. "Implication: Limbaugh doesn't regret the meaning of what he said; doesn't regret the associations he made; doesn't regret impugning Fluke's integrity across the country." No wonder critics haven't accepted his apology.

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2. He still doesn't understand his mistake

Even worse than Limbaugh's "complete refusal to recognize that the uproar... isn't just about name-calling," says J. Bryan Lowder at Slate, is "his offensive misunderstanding of the importance and uses of birth control." Fluke didn't testify about her sex life, but about watching a friend have an ovary removed because she couldn't afford the treatment: Birth control pills, which have "many medical uses aside from contraception." Remember, "many women depend on birth control, not for 'social activities,' but for their basic health," and Limbaugh's galling ignorance of female biology is only amplified by his apology. It's sad we have to explain this, says Violet Socks at Reclusive Leftist, but even if you do use these pills for contraception, "you don't take a pill when you're going to have sex, and you don't take more or less of them depending on your sexual activity."

3. The attacks on Fluke and birth control haven't stopped

Limbaugh's "total fabrication and vicious smear" about Fluke getting taxpayer dollars to have lots of sex has spread to other right-wing talkers like Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin, and Erick Erickson, says John Chandley at Firedoglake. "The memo's gone out: Tell the lie about government paying for sex." I guess that makes this a teachable moment, says Socks. "Taxpayers aren't paying for Sandra Fluke's health care," or any private employer's plan.

4. Liberals smell blood

"Make no mistake, the fight is not over Rush's words," says William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. The Left's big stink about this "one joke gone bad" is part of a larger "attempt find something, anything, to force Rush off the air." Yes, we liberals do smell "blood in the water," says Barbara O'Brien at The Mahablog. It's about time for Rush "to learn to be afraid of pissing off women."

5. Limbaugh himself may not drop it

Everyone is up in arms about Limbaugh's latest on-air bile, but "this is his job," says Alexandra Petri at The Washington Post. We used to pillory people for the "gift of saying exactly the worst possible thing," but now we give them talk shows. Limbaugh may be losing friends and advertisers, "but ratings have never been higher." More to the point, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway: You can bet Limbaugh will keep talking about this, and "find a way to spin this to his advantage. He always does."

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