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Context of 'February 29, 2012 and After: TV Actress Berates Law Student on Twitter, Apologizes'

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Patricia Heaton, in an October 2011 interview on ABC.Patricia Heaton, in an October 2011 interview on ABC. [Source: Ray Tamarra / Getty Images / Daily Beast]Television actress Patricia Heaton, an outspoken conservative, posts a number of vitriolic Twitter posts targeting Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was vilified by Rush Limbaugh today for her stance on insurer-paid contraception (see February 29, 2012). Her posts to Fluke echo Limbaugh’s groundless characterization of Fluke as a “sex-crazed coed” who wants the government to pay for her birth control (see March 1, 2012). Heaton labels Fluke “G-Town Gal” in her posts, and says, among other things: “Hey G-Town Gal! How about having sex only on Wednesdays? (Hump Day!)” “Hey G-Town, stop buying toothpaste, soap and shampoo! You’ll save money, and no one will want to sleep with you!” “Hey G-Town Gal: turn your underwear inside out! Then u only have to do laundry every 2 weeks - saves on detergent & trips to laundromat!” and “Hey G-Town Gal! If your parents have to pay for your birth control, maybe they should get a say in who u sleep with! Instant birth control!” After a barrage of negative responses, Heaton temporarily deletes her Twitter account, and then posts the following in attempts to apologize: “Tweatons: Finally heard all the commentary. I crossed the line w/@SandraFluke. Don’t agree w/her views, but I was not showing Christ’s love.” “I apologized to Ms Fluke last week. I may not agree with her views but I didn’t treat her with respect and I’m sorry. I was wrong. Mea Culpa,” and finally, “No, I still disagree w/ her views but I didn’t treat her w/ respect which was wrong.” [Angry Black Lady, 2/29/2012; USA Today, 3/5/2012; KSN (.com), 3/5/2012] A contributor to Yahoo! News writes of Heaton’s Twitter posts: “Heaton is a 54-year-old woman who pretty much lowered herself to the same level as a mean high school girl bullying the nice girl through social media.… Verbal bullying involves teases and insults and what Heaton said most falls into that category.” [Yahoo! News, 3/6/2012] The online news source Daily Beast notes that Heaton has a history of making inflammatory and abusive “tweets” and other postings, often in support of Limbaugh. [Daily Beast, 3/7/2012]

Entity Tags: Rush Limbaugh, Patricia Heaton, Yahoo! News, Sandra Fluke, Daily Beast (.com)

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Five men, including several conservative religious leaders, testified before a House committee on female contraception issues. No women were allowed to testify. The Senate later blocks a bill restricting contraception from passing.Five men, including several conservative religious leaders, testified before a House committee on female contraception issues. No women were allowed to testify. The Senate later blocks a bill restricting contraception from passing. [Source: Twitter / London Daily Mail]The Senate votes down the controversial “Blunt amendment” 51-48, on a nearly party-line vote. The amendment, offered by Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) as a rider to a routine highway bill and co-sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and 22 other senators, would have allowed health care providers to refuse to pay for contraception and other health care procedures on religious or moral grounds. If the amendment had passed, health insurance plans and employers could refuse to provide or pay for coverage of “specific items or services” if the coverage would be “contrary to the religious beliefs or moral convictions of the sponsor, issuer, or other entity offering the plan.” Blunt and the bill’s supporters characterize the legislation as an attempt to restore religious freedoms taken away by the Obama administration’s “government health care takeover,” in Blunt’s words; opponents say the bill is an attack on women’s rights and an effort to ban contraception. Blunt said during the debate of the bill: “This amendment does not mention any procedure of any kind. The word ‘contraception’ is not in there because it’s not about a specific procedure. It’s about a faith principle that the First Amendment guarantees.” McConnell says the bill is an attempt to fight for “religious liberty,” which he and others say is under attack by the White House and Congressional Democrats. The Obama administration’s health care policy requires organizations to cover the cost of contraception, but does not require religious establishments to cover the cost. Employees of religious establishments can still obtain contraception from the health care insurance company. Mitt Romney (R-MA), a Republican presidential candidate, first stated his opposition to the bill, then quickly reversed course and said he was for it. The only Senate Republican to vote against the bill is Olympia Snowe (R-ME), widely considered a moderate Republican; three conservative Democrats vote for the bill. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), considered a strong candidate to run as the Republican vice-presidential nominee in the 2012 elections, says the Senate’s refusal to pass the bill is “a setback for religious freedoms in America.” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) calls the bill a straightforward effort to ban contraception. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wrote in a recent op-ed, “Instead of coming together to fix our economy and strengthen the middle class, the Senate is considering a measure so extreme that it would allow any employer—religious or secular—to deny their employees coverage of any preventive service, including contraception, mammograms—anything the employer deems unfit to be covered.” Senator Patty Murray (D-MA) says, “The Senate will not allow women’s health care choices to be taken away from them.” Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) says Republicans are attacking women’s health care as part of “a systematic war against women.” Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius had asked the Senate to reject the proposal, saying, “The Obama administration believes that decisions about medical care should be made by a woman and her doctor, not a woman and her boss.” Dr. Hal C. Lawrence of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists came out against the amendment, saying contraception “improves and saves babies’ lives, improves maternal health, and can be life-saving for women with serious medical problems.” The American Cancer Society released a statement opposing the amendment, saying it would allow employers to deny coverage of life-saving preventive services like mammograms and smoking cessation programs based on “undefined religious beliefs or moral convictions.” [New York Times, 3/1/2012; The State, 3/1/2012; The Week, 3/2/2012] After the bill is voted down, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh vilifies Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was not allowed to testify before a House committee meeting debating the bill [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] , calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” for advocating the free availability of contraception (see February 29, 2012). Fluke gave her testimony before a panel of House Democrats and posted it on YouTube, where she discussed the needs of young women who use birth control and other contraceptives for medical needs such as cancer prevention. Specifically, she cites the example of a friend who needed, and was unable to obtain, birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 2/16/2012] Democrats and others criticized committee chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) for only allowing men to testify before the House Oversight Committee on the topic of female contraception. It was Issa’s decision to bar Fluke from testifying before the committee. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said at the time: “The Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it’s appropriate to have a hearing on women’s health and purposely exclude women from the panel. I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues.” Issa only allowed committee Democrats to name one witness; they named Fluke, whom Issa barred from testifying as she was “unqualified” to speak. [Daily Mail, 2/17/2012]

Entity Tags: Kirsten Gillibrand, Kathleen Sebelius, Darrell E. Issa, Charles Schumer, Barbara Mikulski, American Cancer Society, Willard Mitt Romney, US Senate, Rush Limbaugh, Hal C. Lawrence, Olympia Snowe, Obama administration, Nancy Pelosi, Patty Murray, Mitch McConnell, Roy Blunt, Marco Rubio, Sandra Fluke

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda, 2012 Elections

President Obama calls Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law school student who has been subjected to vociferous attacks and personal smears by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and others (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012) after publicly opposing a Republican-backed amendment that would have allowed health care providers and insurers to deny coverage of contraception and other provisions on moral or religious grounds (see March 1, 2012). Obama asks Fluke if she is “okay” after the attacks, thanks her for speaking out on the issue, and tells her that her parents should be proud of her. Fluke takes the call at the MSNBC building in New York, while waiting to be interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Of the call, she tells Mitchell: “He encouraged me and supported me and thanked me for speaking out about the concerns of American women. What was really personal for me was that he said to tell my parents that they should be proud. And that meant a lot because Rush Limbaugh questioned whether or not my family would be proud of me. So I just appreciated that very much.… He did express his concern for me and wanted to make sure that I was okay, which I am. I’m okay.” She tells Mitchell that the vilification from Limbaugh has been “surreal.” After the call, White House press secretary Jay Carney says Obama made the telephone call because he feels that “the kinds of personal attacks that have been directed her way have been inappropriate. The fact that our political discourse has been debased in many ways is bad enough.” He adds: “It’s even worse when it is directed at a private citizen who is simply expressing her views about public policy.… The president expressed to Sandra Fluke that he was disappointed that she was the subject of these crude—of these personal attacks. I think that it’s fair to say that—reprehensible was my word, but look, these were unfortunate attacks that were leveled against her and the president feels that way.… They were, inappropriate and reprehensible. But the point is the president called her to thank her for speaking out on a matter and doing so with great poise on a matter—on a public policy matter and to express his disappointment that she had been subjected to these kinds of attacks.” [MSNBC, 3/1/2012; Huffington Post, 3/2/2012; CBS News, 3/2/2012] Days later, Obama will tell a Washington Post reporter that he called Fluke in part because he was thinking of his daughters Malia and Sasha. “I don’t know what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart, so I’m not going to comment on the sincerity of his apology” (see March 3, 2012 and March 5, 2012), Obama will say. “What I can comment on is the fact that all decent folks can agree that the remarks that were made don’t have any place in the public discourse.” He says he called “because I thought about Malia and Sasha, and one of the things I want them to do as they get older is to engage in issues they care about; even ones I may not agree with them on.… And I don’t want them attacked or called horrible names because they’re being good citizens.” [Washington Post, 3/6/2012] Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) says Obama acted “opportunistically” in making the phone call, stating, “I think the president will opportunistically do anything he can.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2012] Limbaugh continues his attacks on Fluke in the hours after Obama’s telephone call (see March 2, 2012).

Entity Tags: Rush Limbaugh, Malia Obama, Sandra Fluke, Barack Obama, Sasha Obama, Andrea Mitchell, Jay Carney, Newt Gingrich

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Conservative radio show host Rush Limbaugh issues an apology for his three-day verbal assault on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Fluke testified in opposition to a House amendment that would have allowed health care providers to deny contraceptive coverage and other health care necessities if they had religious or moral objections (see March 1, 2012) and was vilified by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh, echoing claims from his anti-Fluke broadcasts, claims he was merely joking in calling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” alleging that she wanted the government to pay for her having promiscuous sex, and demanding that she post online videos of the sex he claimed he would be paying for. On his blog, Limbaugh writes: “For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke. I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone’s bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a presidential level (see March 2, 2012). My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.” [Rush Limbaugh, 3/3/2012] Premiere Radio Networks, the subsidiary of Clear Channel Entertainment that distributes Limbaugh’s show, quickly emails the apology to reporters, but initially declines to comment. Limbaugh’s chief of staff Kit Carson refuses to comment as well. On March 4, the network will email a statement by a spokesperson that reads: “The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue. We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions.” The company refuses to divulge the names of the largest advertisers on Limbaugh’s show, nor how much revenue Premiere is losing by the advertiser defections. A Twitter account called “Stop Rush” posts: “I think this attempt at damage control labeled as an apology actually makes things worse. You know what Rush’s so-called apology means? Your efforts at delivering real accountability are working!” MSNBC talk show host Lawrence O’Donnell posts on Twitter, “Lawyers wrote that apology.” [New York Times, 3/3/2012; Associated Press, 3/4/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald notes that Limbaugh conflates contraception with governmental purchases of sneakers, and continues to imply that Fluke and other women advocate for contraception coverage solely for their own personal sexual activities. Seitz-Wald recalls that Fluke testified to Congress on behalf of a friend who needed birth control pills to manage polycystic ovarian syndrome. [Think Progress, 3/3/2012] Liberal blogger Kaili Jo Gray writes in response: “Shorter Rush: ‘I’m sorry if any sluts were offended by being called sluts, but if they’d stop being sluts, I wouldn’t have to call them sluts.’ Obviously, the campaign to demand that Rush’s sponsors pull their advertising from his show is working” (see March 2, 2012 and After). [Kaili Jo Gray, 3/3/2012] Others agree. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), the Democratic National Committee chair, says, “I know he apologized, but forgive me, I doubt his sincerity, given that he lost at least six advertisers.” And Eric Boehlert of the progressive media watchdog Web site Media Matters says he doubts the apology will “stop the pressure that’s being applied to his advertisers.” In an email, Boehlert says, “His comments were so egregious, naturally advertisers will have doubts about being associated with Limbaugh’s brand of hate.” [New York Times, 3/5/2012] It is possible that Limbaugh issues the apology in hopes of fending off a lawsuit by Fluke (see March 2, 2012) and/or to stop advertisers from removing themselves as sponsors of his show. Regardless, the exodus will intensify, and will spread to advertisers asking that their ads be removed from Limbaugh’s political talk-show colleagues as well as from his own show (see March 9, 2012).

Entity Tags: Clear Channel, Lawrence O’Donnell, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Eric Boehlert, Kit Carson, Alex Seitz-Wald, Sandra Fluke, Kaili Jo Gray, Premiere Radio Networks, Rush Limbaugh

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh attempts to explain his three-day tirade against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012) and expand on his apology for his comments (see March 3, 2012). In the process, he insults “liberals” and continues his attack on Fluke, though he now reframes his attacks on Fluke in political terms and avoids the personal defamation in which he had previously engaged. “I want to explain why I apologized to Sandra Fluke in the statement that was released on Saturday,” he says. “I’ve read all the theories from all sides and, frankly, they are all wrong. I don’t expect—and I know you don’t, either—morality or intellectual honesty from the left. They’ve demonstrated over and over a willingness to say or do anything to advance their agenda. It’s what they do. It’s what we fight against here every day. But this is the mistake I made. In fighting them on this issue last week, I became like them. Against my own instincts, against my own knowledge, against everything I know to be right and wrong I descended to their level when I used those two words [‘slut’ and ‘prostitute’] to describe Sandra Fluke. That was my error. I became like them, and I feel very badly about that. I’ve always tried to maintain a very high degree of integrity and independence on this program. Nevertheless, those two words were inappropriate. They were uncalled for. They distracted from the point that I was actually trying to make, and I again sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for using those two words to describe her. I do not think she is either of those two words. I did not think last week that she is either of those two words. The apology to her over the weekend was sincere. It was simply for using inappropriate words in a way I never do, and in so doing, I became like the people we oppose. I ended up descending to their level. It’s important not to be like them, ever, particularly in fighting them. The old saw, you never descend to the level of your opponent or they win. That was my error last week. But the apology was heartfelt. The apology was sincere. And, as you will hear as I go on here, it was not about anything else. No ulterior motive. No speaking in code. No double entendre or intention. Pure, simple, heartfelt. That’s why I apologized to Sandra Fluke on Saturday, ‘cause all the theories, all the experts are wrong.… Now, all of this is what I should have told you last week, ‘cause this is what happened. I use satire. I use absurdity to illustrate the absurd. The story at the Cybercast News Service characterized a portion of her testimony as sounding like (based on her own financial figures) she was engaging in sexual activity so often she couldn’t afford it. I focused on that because it was simple trying to persuade people, change people’s minds.” He continues attacking Fluke for her attempts to persuade Georgetown University to include contraception in its student health insurance coverage. He calls her a “longtime birth control activist” who went back to law school in order to engage in demagoguery at Georgetown over the contraception issue, and questions the testimony she was prepared to offer before a House committee in support of insurer-paid contraception coverage (see March 1, 2012). “In fact, she told stories less about birth control as a social tool (which was, of course, the left’s true agenda) and more about birth control as a medication for treating other conditions, such as pregnancy,” Limbaugh says. “To the left, pregnancy is a disease. If you’re listening to me for the first time, you may say, ‘Well, that’s crazy.’ It’s not. They treat pregnancy as a disease for political purposes. All of this, folks, is political. Sandra Fluke gave vague examples based on unnamed friends who she says couldn’t afford birth control to treat medical conditions they had, since Georgetown University wouldn’t pay for them. Georgetown paid for all of their other medical treatment, but it wouldn’t pay for the birth control pills that these doctors prescribed should they be necessary—or so she says. We still don’t know who any of these friends of hers are, these other women, and we don’t know what happened to them. Her testimony was hearsay, and it was unprovable.” He says to Fluke, “If birth control insurance is important to you as an enrolling student, and you find out that Georgetown doesn’t offer it, you might want to attend (or work at) a school that isn’t run by Catholics.” Fluke and others “intentionally target schools like Georgetown to advance an agenda of ultimately forcing them to abandon their religious beliefs,” Limbaugh says. “All of this is to serve Obama’s agenda (see March 2, 2012). The agenda he worked all summer on. He abandoned it only when America stood up, united, and this said they would not tolerate tearing down religion to increase government’s control over our lives.… They [Democrats] use Sandra Fluke to create a controversy. Sandra Fluke used them to advance her agenda, which is to force a religious institution to abandon their principles in order to meet hers.” [Reuters, 3/5/2012; Rush Limbaugh, 3/5/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald observes, “While this is perhaps some progress from Limbaugh’s overtly sexist slurs of last week, it’s hardly the words of a man genuinely sorry for his ad hominem attacks on a women’s health advocate.” [Think Progress, 3/5/2012]

Entity Tags: Georgetown University, Alex Seitz-Wald, Barack Obama, Cybercast News Service, Sandra Fluke, Rush Limbaugh

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) condemns talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his “incendiary comments” about Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Murkowski says she was “stunned” by his statements, and says that Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “just adding to this sense that women’s health rights are being attacked.” Moreover, she says, “I’m a little bit disappointed that there hasn’t been greater condemnation of his words by people in leadership positions.” Does that expectation include Republicans? she is asked, and she responds: “Everybody. What he said was just wrong. Just wrong.” Murkowski also says she “regret[s]” her vote in favor of a Senate amendment that would have terminated mandated insurer coverage for contraception (see March 1, 2012), the basis of Limbaugh’s attacks against Fluke. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she says, explaining that she intended to cast a vote in favor of religious freedom and not against women’s rights. Of Limbaugh, she says: “I think women when they hear… mouthpieces like that say things like that they get concerned and they look to policymakers. That’s where I feel like I have let these women down is that I have not helped to give these women the assurance they need that their health care rights are protected.” [TPM LiveWire, 3/6/2012; Anchorage Daily News, 3/6/2012]

Entity Tags: Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke, Lisa Murkowski

Timeline Tags: US Health Care, Domestic Propaganda

Author and investigative reporter Cara Hoffman writes an op-ed for the liberal news and opinion Web site TruthOut and her blog concerning the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent invective-laden tirades against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012). Fluke drew Limbaugh’s ire by advocating for insurer-paid contraception as part of broader health care coverage (see March 1, 2012). Hoffman writes that Limbaugh is correct in stating that “single, educated women” like Fluke and author Tracie McMillan, whom he excoriated after his attacks on Fluke (see March 6-7, 2012), “are trying to take away his freedom.… Limbaugh’s freedom has gone unchecked for a long time; his freedom to deliver a constant stream of invective and hate speech, the foundation of which is misogyny. So his anxiety is well justified. People once had the freedom to lynch, terrorize, and sexually assault African Americans until that freedom was taken away. They had the freedom to deny them an education, a vote, the right to marry whom they chose, until that freedom was taken away. They had the freedom to mock and use racial epithets and hate speech in all forms of media until that freedom was taken away.” Hoffman writes that Limbaugh’s listeners are in a similar predicament, facing the loss of their “freedom” to exercise what she calls their hatred for women: “[f]reedoms they had before women were allowed to go to school, or to vote, before rape shield laws existed, before domestic violence laws changed. They know as long as there is no level playing field, as long as women are kept second class citizens, the freedom to discriminate, exploit, intimidate, and reap the benefits of the economic and social freedoms that come from creating an underclass remain.” Hoffman concludes: “Young single educated women and men, working class women and men, married women and men are at the forefront of dismantling your freedoms, Mr. Limbaugh. Rest assured we will be taking them. You won’t have to wait much longer.” [TruthOut (.org), 3/8/2012]

Entity Tags: Cara Hoffman, Rush Limbaugh, Sandra Fluke

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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