Public Health Policy
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Republican political strategist Trey Hardin says that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh should “absolotely” apologize for his recent vilification of 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). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). “Frankly it is borderline slander but we have come to expect nothing less from Mr. Limbaugh,” Hardin says. Moreover, Hardin observes that Limbaugh is hurting Republican chances in the November elections, saying: “Even Limbaugh must know that women are now the most influential voting bloc in the electoral process and many of them are undecided in this year’s general election. His word choice does not help, and in fact hurts, the GOP’s efforts to reach those voters. I recognize he has an audience to cater to and he is trying to make money but will someone close to him please tell him to shut up! He is not helping.” [Politico, 3/2/2012]
Conservative political columnist Kathleen Parker condemns the recent attacks by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh 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). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). Parker’s column appears next to a Washington Post editorial similarly condemning Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012). Parker writes that it is ironic that Limbaugh, with his history of divisive rhetoric, has apparently united almost everyone in the country, albeit against him and in support of Fluke. The idea that contraception is controversial is tiresome, Parker writes: “Having access to contraception hasn’t been controversial except in the Catholic Church for some time and wouldn’t be now if not for the new mandate that nearly every employer offer insurance to pay for it. The only question—ever—has been whether the federal government can force religious organizations to pay for something that violates their freedom of conscience.” The Obama administration has sidestepped the issue by allowing religious institutions such as the Catholic Church to deny paying for contraception in their health care coverage, but mandated that insurance companies do so. This is an issue worth debating, Parker notes. However, Limbaugh chose not to debate the issue, but instead to “attack… Fluke in the vilest terms. Moreover, by addressing her argument that college women need contraception and should be able to get it for free, he essentially lent credence to the opposition narrative that this is all about birth control. Inadvertently, Limbaugh also helped advance the argument from the left that Republicans are waging a war against women.” Limbaugh’s rhetoric is “degrading” not only to women, but to Limbaugh, with its obvious implication that he watches pornography online. “Limbaugh has so offended with his remarks that he has further muddled the issues,” Parker concludes. “His remarks have marginalized legitimate arguments and provided a trove of ammunition to those seeking to demonize Republicans who, along with at least some of their Democratic colleagues, are legitimately concerned with religious liberty. As a bonus, he has given his ‘feminazis’ justification for their claims that conservatives hate women. Limbaugh owes Ms. Fluke an apology—an event doubtless many would love to watch.” [Washington Post, 3/2/2012] In a follow-up email interview, Parker says: “Rush Limbaugh’s vile remarks about Sandra Fluke were repugnant on their face. But there’s another dimension to his behavior that deserves our contempt. He has a huge platform to express his views and decades of experience, yet he attacked a young woman half his age in the most revolting terms, sexualizing his criticisms of her. It is simply appalling that he would use his enormous power and status to demean a relatively defenseless young woman who was merely voicing her opinion as he does every day. I can’t imagine what kind of people found his comments entertaining, but I hope they are few.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Conservative blogger “Ace of Spades” posts on Twitter about Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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 is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). He writes: “Please don’t call Sandra Fluke a slut. Respect her for what she is, a shiftless rent-a-cooch from East Whoreville.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] “AoS,” as he is known, won the 2008 “Blogger of the Year” award from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). [Right Wing News, 2/8/2008]
National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chair Carly Fiorina chastizes talk show Rush Limbaugh for his vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), who 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). Fiorina says that Limbaugh’s characterization of Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” is “insulting… incendiary, and most of all, it’s a distraction… from what are very real and important issues.” Fiorina is a supporter of the Blunt amendment, which Fluke testified against, and which would have allowed health care providers to deny coverage of procedures or prescriptions based on religious or moral objections. “The Senate had an important vote yesterday,” she says. “This is a vote about protecting the conscience clause, which used to have broad bipartisan support. That’s a hugely important issue in this country.” [Politico, 3/2/2012] Conservative blogger and CNN commentator Erick Erickson responds by criticizing Fiorina, who says she should join Limbaugh in attacking Fluke and, by proxy, the Democrats who fought to defeat the Blunt amendment. He agrees that Limbaugh’s language in regards to Fluke is “insulting” and “distracting… but he was using insult and sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of Sandra Fluke and the left’s position, which in a nut shell is they think you, me, and every other American should pay for them to have sex. And while I understand people being offended, I am offended by many of these same people thinking I should be subsidizing what has, for years, been considered a consensual act. They call it ‘women’s health,’ but the language associated with it involves pregnancy and sex. They have, in other words, turned ‘women’s health’ into a euphemism for having sex.… So of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. He was using it as a tool to highlight just how absurd the Democrats’ position is on this. It’s what he does and does quite well.” [Erick Erickson, 3/2/2012] Think Progress reporter Alex Seitz-Wald says that Erickson, like Limbaugh, is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position and the position of Congressional Democrats. “Limbaugh and other conservatives like bloggers Erick Erickson and Michelle Malkin (see March 2, 2012) are fabricating the claim that Fluke wants taxpayers to pay for contraception,” Seitz-Wald writes. “That is blatantly f[al]se. Fluke’s testimony, and the entire contraception debate, is about insurance companies paying for contraception as part of their health coverage, the… way they pay for any other medication, such as Viagra. Morevoer, Fluke’s testimony was not about herself, but about a friend who need[s] contraception to fight cancer and other fellow law students.… Meanwhile, Limbaugh apparently doesn’t understand how birth control works. His entire stance is premised on the notion that women need more birth control the more sex they have. Of course, as anyone who has taken an 8th grade sex ed class could inform him, that’s not how it works.” [Think Progress, 3/2/2012]
Jacob Sullum. [Source: Garden State Journal]David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, and conservative-libertarian Jacob Sullum, the editor of Reason magazine, condemn recent comments by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke for her position on contraception (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Both speak in interviews with the liberal media watchdog organization Media Matters. Asked if Limbaugh’s comments were “wrong,” Frum responds by email: “Well obviously it was wrong! Appalling! I feel sorry for the young woman, the first time you encounter this kind of large-scale personal attack, of course it hurts. And it’s destructive too, because on the merits—should religious institutions be allowed to follow their consciences in providing health services—Georgetown U is in the right.” Frum is referring to Georgetown’s resistance to pay for contraceptives as part of the university’s health care coverage for students. Sullum, in a telephone interview, says of Limbaugh: “I don’t really listen to his show much. He is deliberately inflammatory, it was stupid and sexist, obviously, all he knows about her is that apparently she has sex.” Limbaugh “wouldn’t say that about a man who had sex, it is gratuitously sexist.” Sullum calls the comments “outrageous, deliberately outrageous” and “needlessly inflammatory.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Fox News talk show host Bill O’Reilly weighs in on the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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 is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). O’Reilly joins Limbaugh in insulting and mocking Fluke, whom O’Reilly accuses of insisting that the government pay for her “social life.” He also compares the Obama administration’s support for health care insurers paying for contraception to Denmark’s decision to distribute heroin to addicts to help keep the crime rate down. [Think Progress, 3/2/2012; Crooks and Liars, 3/2/2012; Media Matters, 3/2/2012] Janine Turner, a former actress and current radio host who is one of O’Reilly’s guests, says “liberals are like kidnappers,” in “hijacking” the issue of contraception to use to violate some citizens’ religious freedoms. Liberals are like pedophiles seducing children with offers of candy, Turner says, in offering “entitlements” such as government-provided health care. [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] This same day, Eric Bolling of Fox News’s The Five says that Fluke “seems like a plant to me,” apparently alleging that Fluke is some sort of “plant,” or false witness, perhaps for the Democratic Party or for abortion and contraceptive supporters. Bolling, ignoring the fact that Fluke testified entirely on behalf of insurer provisions for birth control pills for medical reasons, says Fluke should have no trouble buying low-cost contraception for her sexual activities. Bolling also falsely alleges that Fluke attended Georgetown University to “expose” the university’s decision not to pay for contraception as part of its students’ health coverage. Another male guest says that if Fluke has contraception covered by her insurance, he should be able to charge his insurance for the dinner, flowers, and other accoutrements of a romantic evening designed to end in sex. [Media Matters, 3/2/2012]
Jennifer Granholm, a host on the liberal cable/satellite Current TV who was formerly the governor of Michigan, delivers an excoriating video op-ed about talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s repeated verbal attacks on Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). After calling Limbaugh “a repulsive misogynistic blowhard,” Granholm turns her attention to the owners of Limbaugh’s show, syndicator Premiere Radio Networks and its owner, Clear Channel Entertainment, along with Limbaugh’s sponsors and the Congressional Republicans who have long backed Limbaugh. “Should we not expect more of these companies?” she asks of Premiere and Clear Channel. To the sponsors, she asks, “Do you really want to be associated with this horrible man” (see March 2, 2012 and After)? To the Congressional Republicans, she asks: “[W]ill you not speak up? What if this was your daughter?” She asks if the Republicans running for president “have [the] backbone to stand up” to Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012), and asks Republicans in general if they want Limbaugh to represent their conservative ideology to the nation. [Current TV, 3/2/2012]
After the third day of being vilified on the national airwaves by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke says she is considering filing a defamation lawsuit against him (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Fluke tells a reporter, “I’ve certainly been told I might have a case, but it’s not something I’ve made any decisions about at this point.” One person supportive of such a lawsuit is US Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who indicates she will either join Fluke in a lawsuit or file on her behalf. Maloney says: “[W]e will be filing a slander suit against Rush Limbaugh. What he’s really trying to do is silence a young woman. It’s unfair, it’s un-American.” Maloney says she considers women’s rights attorney Sybil Shainwald an excellent counsel for such a lawsuit. [Daily Beast, 3/2/2012]
Democratic strategist and MSNBC commentator Krystal Ball. [Source: Television Internet (.com) / LA Late]MSNBC talk show host Ed Schultz discusses the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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 is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Schultz says that Limbaugh’s “shameful… vile, and despicable” attacks and the “firestorm” of criticism in response (see March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 2, 2012 and After) may be “the beginning of the end” of Limbaugh’s 20-year domination of the airwaves. Schultz notes that Limbaugh is deliberately misrepresenting Fluke’s position on contraception as a call for the government to pay her for having responsibility-free sex. In reality, Schultz says, Fluke’s testimony focused not on her personally, but on the needs of female students to have contraception for serious and sometimes life-threatening medical reasons. Schultz notes the relative quiet from Republicans on the controversy, including the failure of Republican presidential candidates to repudiate Limbaugh’s remarks (see March 2, 2012) and the tepid criticisms from some Republican lawmakers (see March 2, 2012). Schultz celebrates the advertisers who are removing their ads from Limbaugh’s show (see March 2, 2012 and After). However, Schultz notes that Limbaugh remains entirely unapologetic, and says that Limbaugh’s attacks and his refusal to apologize “underscores this is just who he is.” For Limbaugh to attack a private citizen, a college student, with personal attacks such as “slut” and “prostitute” for “speaking her mind to Congress” is unacceptable, he says. Limbaugh has “no character,” Schultz says, and is incapable of admitting error. Schultz’s guest Reverend Al Sharpton, a fellow MSNBC host, says Limbaugh is engaging in what he calls a verbal “direct sexual assault” on Fluke: “This is not an implication using sexual terms for something political. He is downright denigrating her and making direct references like she has some sexual habits that is causing her position, which is not only untrue, it is absolutely intolerable.” The advertisers will continue to pull their ads, Sharpton predicts, civil rights and women’s rights organizations will intensify their criticisms, and Limbaugh’s employer, Clear Channel, will eventually have to take action. “[T]his might be Rush’s undoing by Rush,” Sharpton concludes. Democratic strategist Krystal Ball tells Schultz that she is launching a “Boycott Rush” Web site. She recalls being attacked by Limbaugh during the 2010 elections, when she mounted an unsuccessful campaign for Congress and was targeted by Limbaugh and other conservative commentators over private party photos of her that were released online; she sympathizes with what Fluke is experiencing now. [MSNBC, 3/2/2012; LeftAction, 3/2/2012]
Georgetown University officials come to the defense of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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 is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). John DeGioia, president of Georgetown, sends a letter to faculty and students praising Fluke’s testimony. “She was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction,” he writes. “She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people.” As for Limbaugh’s comments, they, DeGioia writes, “can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.” One hundred and thirty-seven professors and staff members have signed a letter of support for Fluke, which reads in part, “As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them.” [Huffington Post, 3/2/2012]
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).
Liberal blogger Greg Dworkin, writing for the online news provider Politico, says that the Republican Party will continue to ignore conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent vilification of 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). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). While Limbaugh certainly owes Fluke an apology, Dworkin writes, “the calls for an apology should be led by Republicans. The fact that they would give him a pass (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012) and that Limbaugh feels no need for an apology tells you everything you need to know about the modern Republican Party and the modern conservative movement. The word ‘cowardly’ comes to mind.” Republicans will continue to duck any criticism of Limbaugh “and the other core Republican crazies in their own party,” Dworkin predicts. “In the meantime, expect both women and men to reject Limbaugh’s line of discussion and withhold their vote for Republicans in the fall.” [Politico, 3/2/2012]
Some Republican lawmakers begin issuing carefully worded criticisms of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh in the wake of Limbaugh’s crude personal attacks on law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012 and March 1, 2012). Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), fighting for re-election in the Democratic stronghold of Massachusetts, issues the strongest criticism of Limbaugh, saying on Twitter: “Rush Limbaugh’s comments are reprehensible. He should apologize.” A spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) tells CNN, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), who refused to allow Fluke to testify before his panel concerning government coverage of contraception (see March 1, 2012), calls Limbaugh’s comments a “distraction,” but uses the controversy to attack Democrats for “using” it for political gain, and claims his office’s female staffers have been exposed to insulting language from callers opposed to Republicans’ attempts to deny health care coverage on religious or moral grounds. He writes that he does not agree “with many comments that have been made during the effort to examine the constitutionality of Obamacare’s mandates on individual freedom, including the ones by Mr. Limbaugh, I find your narrow focus on this particular comment to be self-serving and dismissive of other inappropriate comments and attacks on Americans of faith.” [Talking Points Memo, 3/2/2012] Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum issue mild criticisms of Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012), and National Republican Senatorial Committee chair Carly Fiorina calls Limbaugh’s comments “insulting” and “a distraction from what are very real and important issues” (see March 2, 2012).
In an editorial by its editorial board, the Washington Post unequivocally condemns the recent attacks by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh 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). Limbaugh has called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012), and said that if Fluke wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). The Post calls Limbaugh’s “rants” against Fluke “vile,” and says that Limbaugh has “crossed… the line” that differentiates between “standards of civil discourse” and hate speech. The Post continues: “Like other ‘shock jocks,’ Mr. Limbaugh has committed verbal excesses in the past. But in its wanton vulgarity and cruelty, this episode stands out.… We are not calling for censorship. Nor are we suggesting that the ostensible policy issue here—mandatory provision of contraception under health insurance paid for by religious-based institutions such as Georgetown—is a simple one. Those who questioned President Obama’s initial decisions in this area—we among them—were not waging a ‘war on women,’ as Democrats have alleged in strident fundraising appeals. What we are saying is that Mr. Limbaugh has abused his unique position within the conservative media to smear and vilify a citizen engaged in the exercise of her First Amendment rights, and in the process he debased a national political discourse that needs no further debasing. This is not the way a decent citizen behaves, much less a citizen who wields significant de facto power in a major political party. While Republican leaders owe no apology for Mr. Limbaugh’s comments, they do have a responsibility to repudiate them—and him.” [Washington Post, 3/2/2012] Shortly after the editorial is published, Post editorial writer Charles Lane says in a Fox News interview that he cannot “remember a more hateful outburst from a public figure” than Limbaugh’s. He tells Fox News anchor Bret Baier: “I think we should not talk so much about the politics of this and just talk about it on a human level. I have been covering politics and stuff in Washington for 30 years and I can’t remember a more hateful outburst from a public figure that was less possible to justify by any political disagreement. What Rush Limbaugh said was really unworthy of decent political discourse.” [Media Matters, 3/2/2012] The Post editorial is published several hours before Limbaugh’s daily broadcast; the talk show host continues to vilify Fluke in today’s show (see March 2, 2012).
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney (R-MA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA) refuse to condemn conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his vociferous attacks on the character and motivations of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), who 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). Romney tells a reporter: “It’s not the language I would have used. I’m focusing on the issues that I think are significant in the country today, and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs in Ohio.” Santorum calls Limbaugh’s comments “absurd,” but says that Limbaugh, as a mere entertainer (see December 17, 2004), “can be absurd.” Fellow candidate Newt Gingrich (R-GA) does not comment directly on either Limbaugh or Fluke, but condemns President Obama’s telephone call of support to Fluke (see March 2, 2012) as “opportunistic.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2012; MSNBC, 3/2/2012] Obama campaign advisor David Axelrod posts the following on Twitter: “Rush’s vile, appalling assault on Sandra Fluke deserves universal condemnation. How can folks who call themselves leaders walk away?” MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney says of Romney’s comment: “What a coward!… We are witnessing the absolute final straw in the takeover of the Republican Party by the right wing.… These guys are, you know, cowering in the corner, so afraid to say to [Limbaugh], ‘You can’t talk about our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our grandchildren this way,’ that that kind of language isn’t acceptable. That sends a very clear message.” Women are going to stand up to the Republicans’ increasing attacks on their fundamental rights, Finney says. [MSNBC, 3/2/2012]
For the third straight day, conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh spends the majority of his show attacking Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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). On Wednesday, February 29, Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute” who is having “so much sex she can’t afford the contraception” and wants the government to pay for it (see February 29, 2012); on Thursday, Limbaugh continued to smear Fluke’s character and demanded that if she wanted the government to pay her to have sex, then he wanted her to post videos of her having sex online so the public could watch (see March 1, 2012). Today, Limbaugh defends his earlier comments, saying: “This woman comes forth with this frankly hilarious claim that she’s having so much sex, and her buddies with her, that she can’t afford it. And not one person says, ‘Did you ever think about maybe backing off the amount of sex that you have?’” He goes on to say that asking health insurers to cover contraception is “no different than if somebody knocked on my door that I don’t know and said: ‘You know what? I’m out of money. I can’t afford birth-control pills, and I’m supposed to have sex with three guys tonight.’” Limbaugh calls criticism of his call for Fluke to post sex videos online “absurd,” saying his critics should “realize that we’re illustrating absurdity here by being absurd” and that people should “lighten up.” Limbaugh initially refuses to comment on Fluke receiving a telephone call of support from President Obama (see March 2, 2012), saying, “I’m gonna button my lip on that one.” However, in response to Obama’s remark that Fluke’s parents should be proud of her, Limbaugh says that if his daughter had testified that “she’s having so much sex she can’t pay for it and wants a new welfare program to pay for it,” he’d be “embarrassed” and “disconnect the phone,” “go into hiding,” and “hope the media didn’t find me.” He also says, apparently sarcastically: “Oh that’s touching, Obama just called Sandra Fluke to make sure she’s all right. That is so compassionate, what a great guy.” Limbaugh denies he hates women, and defines “misogynist” as “a man who hates women almost as much as women hate women.” He observes that Fluke is having so much sex that her boyfriends are “lined up around the block. They would have been in my day.… [Fluke’s] sex life is active. She’s having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs. That’s what she’s saying.” As with his remarks yesterday, he concludes that he, not Fluke, is the victim in this controversy, saying: “And amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement to be created, that all of a sudden, we hate women, we want them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, all of these other things. And so, that’s where we are. And so, at the end of this week, I am this person that the women of America are to fear the most.” [Media Matters, 3/1/2012; CBS News, 3/2/2012; Think Progress, 3/2/2012] Liberal blogger David Atkins writes after Limbaugh’s broadcast that judging from his remarks, Limbaugh thinks female birth control pills work like Viagra—the more sex one wishes to have, the more pills one must take. “Anyone remotely familiar with oral contraceptives knows that to work properly, women have to take one pill a day over the course of their monthly cycle. It doesn’t matter if you have unprotected sex once a month or 300 times a month. It’s still the same number of pills, and therefore the same cost. How much sex someone has is utterly irrelevant to the cost of contraception unless they choose to abstain for the entire month.” Atkins writes that Limbaugh is combining ignorance and misogyny in his attacks on Fluke. If indeed Limbaugh does think that female birth control works like Viagra, Atkins writes, “Rush assumes that since it costs him money every time he has sex, it must cost a female college student money, too.” [David Atkins, 3/2/2012]
Far-right blogger Michelle Malkin weighs in on the controversy surrounding Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who 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 is now being vilified by conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Malkin says Fluke is not a “slut,” as Limbaugh has said, but “a moocher and a tool of the nanny state. She’s a poster girl for the rabid Planned Parenthood lobby and its eugenics-inspired foremothers.” Malkin cites as proof of her assertion the fact that Democratic political organizations are using Limbaugh’s attacks on Fluke as grist for their fundraising efforts. [Michelle Malkin, 3/2/2012] The liberal blog Crooks and Liars noted that within minutes of Limbaugh’s first broadside against Fluke, presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s “independent” superPAC sent out mailers quoting Limbaugh as part of its own fundraising efforts. [Crooks and Liars, 2/29/2012] And the National Republican Congressional Committee has launched its own campaign based on the controversy, railing against what it calls “the Obama administration’s decision to trample on the religious liberty of Christian charities—forcing them to provide free birth control.” [New York Times, 3/2/2012]
Lt. Jessica Scott. [Source: e-reads (.com)]Lieutenant Jessica Scott, an Army career soldier, company commander, and novelist in Fort Hood, Texas, begins making Twitter posts in response to talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Scott is angry that Limbaugh would tell the world that because Fluke, and women in general, use contraception, that defines them as, in his words, “sluts.” Scott says in an email exchange with Buzzfeed reporter Rosie Gray: “The entire thing is absolutely appalling because her testimony wasn’t even about sex. It was about a woman who’d lost an ovary because her insurance would not cover birth control pills she needed to control the ovarian cysts” (see March 1, 2012). Scott posts that she “used birth control while deployed with my husband [in Iraq] so I *wouldn’t* get pregnant & sent home.” Scott uses a “hashtag,” an identifying phrase common to Twitter, of #iamnotaslut that starts a barrage of supportive and sympathetic Twitter posts from others who share her outrage. “Who knew it was going to go viral, huh?” she says. Scott says of contraception: “Birth control is a means to an end for me. I can control when/if I have children and therefore I get the chance to be a soldier, a writer, a teacher. I get to be any of the things I’m capable of being because I have control over when/if I have children.” On her Web site, Scott posts the following directly to Limbaugh: “The rhetoric has gotten out of control. The extreme rhetoric that says a woman should just put an aspirin between her knees to keep from getting pregnant (see February 16-17, 2012), or that proposes a bill in the Senate allowing employers to decide not to cover medical issues they deem immoral, or the fact that a group of middle-aged men have returned to an era where they get to tell me what to do with my body: I’m a little pissed. I am a 35-year-old married mother of two, an Army officer who has deployed, and I use birth control to be a good soldier and a responsible parent. I use birth control to stop having my period so that I can go to the field and not worry about it. I use birth control while deployed with my husband to keep from getting pregnant and getting sent home and letting down all the men AND women on my team. I use birth control to keep from having more children than we can afford. I use birth control to enable me to be a good soldier and balance my career and my family. I use birth control to control the relentless cramps I had as teenager that had me in so much pain I could not walk. I use birth control to control when I have children so that I can be more than the sum of my uterus. I use birth control provided by the government to allow me to be a good soldier and a responsible parent and a responsible citizen. I use government-provided birth control while deployed to Iraq because it was my turn to go. Call me a slut because I was fortunate enough to be deployed with my husband and I spent the entire deployment terrified I would get pregnant and sent home. By all means, call me a slut. Call me a whore who expects the government to pay for my birth control so that I can abdicate my responsibilities as a parent. Call me a feminazi for forsaking my duties as a mother and using birth control so that I did not get pregnant again and miss the deployment. Call me a slut for wanting something more for myself and my daughters than to be someone’s breeder. By all means, call me a whore for wanting my daughters to be able to fulfill their potential by being able to decide when they want to start a family. Calling me and every woman who chooses when to have children a slut will not change the fact that we are responsible citizens who opt to plan their families, who opt to take responsibility for their lives as women and members of our society. And yes, call me a whore because I still expect Tricare to cover my birth control and my pap smear and my government-mandated annual STD exam. There are other things I would prefer to be called. You may call me many things but that does not negate the things I call myself. You could call me a Mom, because I have two beautiful daughters who I want to grow up knowing their full potential is between their ears, not their legs. You could call me Soldier, because I love wearing my nation’s uniform and it is an honor to serve. You could call me Author, because I managed to write a book that people read. You could call me a Wife, because I’ve been with the same man for 15 years. You could call me a Friend because I’m there, for laughs or for tears. Any of those things define me so much better than the singular hatred of calling me a slut because I use birth control. But go ahead. Call me a slut. It doesn’t make me one.” Scott tells Gray, “It’s incredibly frustrating to know that in 2012, we are still fighting over the basic right of women to be full members of society and not be valued solely for the fruit of their womb.” [Jessica Scott, 3/2/2012; Buzzfeed, 3/4/2012; Daily Mail, 3/5/2012]
John McQuaid, a senior columnists for Forbes magazine, calls talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s recent apology to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see March 3, 2012) an insincere “non-apology.” 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 for three days by Limbaugh (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). McQuaid says the usual “non-apology” from Limbaugh and others is a crude affair, condescending in tone and piling new insults atop the old. However, Limbaugh’s recent “non-apology” is a bit more sophisticated, he writes, “[b]ut no less insulting to the poor woman he spent several days attacking and defaming, and to the intelligence of anyone who paid attention.” According to McQuaid, Limbaugh is trying to placate his advertisers, who are leaving his show in increasing numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After). Instead of saying that he is sorry if anyone was offended—the usual form a “non-apology” will take—Limbaugh tried to pretend the entire affair “was all just a big joke that no one should have taken seriously.” Limbaugh then defended his own position on contraception, the issue that he disagrees with Fluke on and the spur for him labeling Fluke a “slut” and a “prostitute,” and finally said words to the effect that had he made better word choices, there would be no need for apologies. McQuaid writes: “Conservative radio hosts pride themselves on their plainspoken directness. The idea of Rush Limbaugh attempting to retcon weasely nuance into his own past statements to obscure his excesses: now that’s absurd.” [Forbes, 3/3/2012] Days later, Forbes contributor Dave Serchuk will call Limbaugh’s apology a “quarter-loaf mea culpa” that proves Limbaugh is becoming increasingly irrelevant in modern political society. “Limbaugh doesn’t seem to grasp that you can’t call a woman the vilest things imaginable and expect all people, not just women, to not be offended. He then didn’t get that his usual doubling down on a bad bet and bluster would not get him out of it. Then he didn’t get that when he apologized he actually had to mean it. It’s also like he didn’t get that women are an extremely powerful and massive part of American life, growing more powerful every day. And they don’t like their desire for safe, affordable reproductive control to get them labeled as town whores, like we were all back in a Bible Belt high school in the 1970s. That’s considered offensive. This should be obvious. But he’s happy to write off more than half the American population.” After the 2012 election, Serchuk predicts, Limbaugh’s influence will steadily fade: “He won’t go away over night. But over time he will fade in power and influence, inexorably, his name leaving a bad taste in people’s mouths. He will end as he began, a lonely man in a radio booth, shouting at the air.” [Forbes, 3/7/2012]
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd takes aim at conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh and his three-day diatribe against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Dowd begins: “As a woman who has been viciously slashed by Rush Limbaugh, I can tell you, it’s no fun. At first you think, if he objects to the substance of what you’re saying, why can’t he just object to the substance of what you’re saying? Why go after you in the most personal and humiliating way? Then, once you accept the fact that he has become the puppet master of the Republican Party by stirring bloodlust… you still cringe at the thought that your mom might hear the ugly things he said. Now he’s brutalizing a poised, wholesome-looking 30-year-old Georgetown law student as a ‘slut,’ ‘a prostitute,’ and ‘round-heeled’ simply for testifying to lawmakers about wanting the school to amend its health insurance to cover contraception.” She points out that Limbaugh is wrong about contraception becoming yet another “welfare entitlement,” as tax dollars will not pay for contraception—employers and insurance companies will. Women are not being paid to “have sex,” as Limbaugh has said: “They’d be getting insurance coverage toward the roughly $1,000 annual expense of trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies and abortions, and to control other health conditions. This is something men and conservatives should want too, and not just because those outcomes actually do cost taxpayers money.” Dowd is clearly angry over Limbaugh’s crude personal response to what Georgetown University president John DeGioia called Fluke’s “model of civil discourse” (see March 2, 2012), particularly his “leering” suggestion that Fluke “pay back” taxpayers by posting sex videos online. She writes: “Rush and Newt Gingrich can play the studs, marrying again and again until they find the perfect adoring young wife. But women pressing for health care rights are denigrated as sluts.” She is dismissive of the “tepid” response from Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Dowd’s column is later updated with a note that Limbaugh has issued a statement, meaning his apology (see March 3, 2012). [New York Times, 3/3/2012]
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).
A woman on the liberal blog Daily Kos who identifies herself as “beantown mom” writes of the personal damage incurred by her daughter as a result of conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day verbal assault against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Her daughter, who is 16, is on birth control pills due to menorrhagia and secondary dysmenorrhea. Apparently students at the school learned of her use of birth control pills after she was given them during a five-day field trip last week. Her mother found her at school the afternoon of March 2, crying and shaking. She told her mother that some of her classmates were now calling her “a slut, a whore, a b_tch who is screwing every guy in school,” and handed her mother a piece of paper. The paper read: “Little miss innocent, huh? Whatever slut—you take birth control pills so you can f* every guy in school! What a joke—u are nothin but a whore! Pretty bad when some guy on the radio who isn’t afraid to tell the truth has to break it down for everybody—if u on the Pill u are nothing but a skank _ss ho! My mom said girls on the pill are tramps who just wanna get laid and don’t care about nothin—is that how u are?” According to the mother, her daughter found the note in her locker before classes began that morning, and the apparent authors of the note—a group of girls she does not know well—began verbally abusing her in the cafeteria, calling her “birth control whore” and other labels. One reportedly said: “I told my mom you were on the pill and she said you were nothing but a little tramp. My mom said some guy she listens to on the radio was just talking about girls like you—he even said you were a slut!” The mother writes that her daughter asked her: “Am I a slut because I take a prescription birth control pill? I don’t take it because I am having sex, I take it to help my periods—am I a bad person, Mom?” The mother writes: “‘Am I a bad person?’ My 16-year-old daughter asked me if she was a bad person because she is on the pill! Who are we? What century do we live in? Who in the hell has the right to say these things? Who does Rush Limbaugh think he is? Why is he allowed to say these things and hurt people? Why have I spent the last two days trying to convince my 16-year-old that she is not a slut?” The mother writes that her daughter is an example of the effect Limbaugh’s words have on ordinary people. [Daily Kos, 3/4/2012]
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul (R-TX) addresses a recent apology by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who spent three days calling a female law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” for her position on insurer-provided birth control (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Paul says Limbaugh’s apology (see March 3, 2012) was not sincere, but instead was merely self-serving. Apologizing, Paul tells a CBS host, “was in his best interest.… He’s doing it because some people were taking their advertisements off of his program. It was his bottom line he was concerned about.” Paul is referring to the increasing number of companies that are removing their advertisements from Limbaugh’s radio show in response to his attacks on Sandra Fluke (see March 2, 2012 and After). “I don’t think he’s very apologetic,” Paul says. However, Paul agrees with Limbaugh that the government should not mandate that insurance companies provide contraception coverage. Paul says: “This is philosophically and politically important because, does the government have a mandate to tell insurance [companies] what to give? So they’re saying that the insurance companies should give everybody free birth control pill, that strikes me as rather odd.” [CBS News, 3/4/2012; Raw Story, 3/4/2012]
Peggy Noonan, a conservative commentator and former advisor in the first Bush administration, denounces talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). On ABC’s Sunday morning talk show This Week, Noonan says: “What Rush Limbaugh said was crude, rude, even piggish, it was just unacceptable, he ought to be called on it. I’m glad he has apologized (see March 3, 2012). I guess there will be a debate now about the nature of the apology. But what he said was also destructive.” Noonan says Limbaugh’s statements “confused the issue. It played into this trope that the Republicans have a war on women. No, they don’t, but he made it look they that way. It confused the larger issue which is the real issue, which is ‘Obamacare,’ and its incursions against religious freedoms, which is a serious issue. It was not about this young lady at Georgetown.” [Media Matters, 3/4/2012; TPM LiveWire, 3/4/2012]
Michelle Bernard, the former head of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, explains why few Republicans have criticized talk show host Rush Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 4, 2012) for defaming a female law student during his broadcast (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh, whom Bernard praises during an MSNBC appearance, is something of an ideological “enforcer” who pressures Republicans and conservatives to “toe the line,” she says. Bernard says that some conservatives such as herself have chosen not to adhere to Limbaugh’s ideological hard line. [Media Matters, 3/4/2012]
On ABC’s This Week morning talk show, an array of political commentators from around the political spectrum unite in condemning radio host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day tirade against Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke over her stance on contraception coverage (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Perhaps the most surprising statements come from conservative columnist George Will, who not only slams Limbaugh’s comments, but criticizes Republicans for not coming out more strongly against Limbaugh (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 2, 2012). “Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh,” Will says. “[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff. And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.” Will says that it is the duty of Republican leaders to keep Limbaugh in line: “It is the responsibility of conservatives to police the right and its excesses, just as the liberals unfailingly fail to police the excesses on their own side.” ABC political analyst Matthew Dowd agrees, saying that Republican leaders fear criticizing Limbaugh because they believe what Dowd calls the “myth” of Limbaugh’s powerful influence among Republican voters (see January 1993, October 16, 2001, December 17, 2004, July 2008, and January 28-29, 2009). “I think the problem is the Republican leaders, Mitt Romney and the other candidates, don’t have the courage to say what they say in quiet, which, they think Rush Limbaugh is a buffoon,” Dowd says. “They think he is like a clown coming out of a small car at a circus. It’s great he is entertaining and all that. But nobody takes him seriously.” Peggy Noonan, an advisor to former President George H. W. Bush, calls Limbaugh “crude, rude, [and] piggish” on the same broadcast (see March 4, 2012). [ABC News, 3/4/2012; Think Progress, 3/4/2012; Los Angeles Times, 3/5/2012]
Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, who was given an apology by talk show host Rush Limbaugh (see March 3, 2012) after he vilified her for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), says Limbaugh’s apology is far too little. Appearing on ABC’s morning talk show The View, Fluke says the apology does not “change anything.” For Limbaugh to say that his “choice of words was not the best” is hardly an apology at all, she says. She also notes that he is “under significant pressure” from advertisers who are beginning to withdraw their advertisements from his show (see March 2, 2012 and After). She also says she does not want an apologetic phone call from him, were he to offer one. “I think the statements that he made on the air about me have been personal enough, so I’d rather not have a personal phone call from him,” she says. She refuses to call for an advertiser boycott of Limbaugh’s show, merely saying that Americans support companies that share their values, and she trusts that state of events will continue. Fluke adds: “I want to correct the misperception, which Mr. Limbaugh and a lot of other commentators have been putting out there to confuse the public, the idea that this is about taxpayers or the government paying for contraception. It is absolutely not. This regulation covers private insurance and it wants to have this type of medical drug treated in a way that’s similar to how other medical drugs are treated. And it is health care.” [ABC News, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
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]
In two separate interviews on CNN and CBS, respectively, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blasts talk show host Rush Limbaugh for his three-day tirade against Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). He tells a CNN host: “His remarks are totally unacceptable. Totally and completely unacceptable. And there’s no place for it.” On CBS, he says, “Those statements were unacceptable in every way and should be condemned by everyone, no matter what their political leanings are.” So far, McCain is almost the only Republican lawmaker aside from Ron Paul (R-TX) to publicly criticize Limbaugh for his attacks on Fluke (see March 2, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 4, 2012, and March 4, 2012). [CNN, 3/5/2012; CBS News, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Radio host Don Imus condemns fellow host Rush Limbaugh for what Imus calls his “insincere” apology to Sandra Fluke, the law student he vilified for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Imus joins Fluke and others in not viewing Limbaugh’s apology (see March 3, 2012) as sincere (see March 5, 2012). Imus was suspended from the air in 2009 over his characterization of a female, primarily African-American basketball team as “nappy-headed ho’s” and fired from CBS News (see April 13, 2007). Imus accuses Limbaugh of engaging in a “vile personal attack” against Fluke, and notes that it was “sustained” over three days. Imus calls Limbaugh’s apology “lame,” and says that Limbaugh’s statement that he had no intention of personally attacking Fluke is ridiculous, considering he did little else but attack her over a three-day period. Imus says if he employed Limbaugh, he would force him to apologize in person to Fluke. But Limbaugh is “an insincere pig” and a “pinhead,” Imus says, and will not apologize because he lacks the courage and the integrity to do so. “He has no guts,” Imus says, and should be fired. [Media Matters, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
KPUA-AM logo. [Source: TuneIn (.com)]KPUA-AM Radio in Hilo, Hawaii, cancels its broadcast of Rush Limbaugh’s talk show in the wake of Limbaugh’s controversial vilification of a female law student (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). According to general manager Chris Leonard: “We are strong believers in the first amendment and have recognized Mr. Limbaugh’s right to express opinions that often times differ from our own, but it has never been our goal to allow our station to be used for personal attacks and intolerance. The most recent incident has crossed a line of decency and a standard that we expect of programming on KPUA whether it is locally produced or a syndicated program like the Rush Limbaugh show. While much of the national debate regarding this issue is now being framed in political terms, the decision for us is one of decency and responsibility. Regardless of one’s political views on the issue being discussed, we feel the delivery was degrading and the continued comments over several days to be egregious. As a result, we are discontinuing the Rush Limbaugh program on KPUA effective immediately.” [KPUA-AM, 3/5/2012; Hawaii 24/7, 3/5/2012; Big Island Video News, 3/6/2012] WBEC-AM, a commercial radio station in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, also drops Limbaugh’s show, even though it has lost no advertisers and has only received a few complaints. General manager Peter Barry says: “The nature of Rush’s programming has always presented challenges for us and he’s always pushed the envelope. But this time he’s taken it too far.” [New England Public Radio, 3/5/2012]
Columnist and author David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, says that conservatives’ complaints that talk show host Rush Limbaugh is not being treated fairly over the Sandra Fluke controversy (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, March 5, 2012, and March 3, 2012) are specious. Frum says that conservatives note that while Limbaugh may have said some unacceptable things about Fluke, liberals and Democrats have also said unacceptable things. Frum says that the conflation is irrelevant. He writes: “Even by the rough standards of cable/talk radio/digital talk, Limbaugh’s verbal abuse of Sandra Fluke set a new kind of low. I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. This was not a case of a bad ‘word choice.’ It was a brutally sexualized accusation, against a specific person, prolonged over three days.” Frum notes that several media figures putatively on the left, including late-night hosts David Letterman and Bill Maher, and liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz, have said unacceptable things themselves, with conservatives complaining that they faced no consequences. Frum notes that such complaints are not true. Schultz called a female talk show host a “slut” and not only apologized, but was suspended from MSNBC (see May 24-25, 2011). Letterman, after insulting former Govenor Sarah Palin’s daughter, “delivered an abject seven-minute apology” on the air. (Frum notes that Palin refused to accept the apology and insinuated that Letterman was a pedophile.) Maher used a crude sexual epithet against Palin, and to date has refused to apologize for it (see March 27-28, 2011). However, Frum notes, neither Letterman, Schultz, nor Maher has anywhere near the political influence that Limbaugh has. “Letterman is not a political figure at all; and while Maher and Schultz strongly identify as liberals, neither qualifies as anything like a powerbroker in the Democratic Party.… A word of criticism from Limbaugh… will reduce almost any member of the Republican caucus to abject groveling.… I can’t recall anything as brutal, ugly, and deliberate ever being said by such a prominent person and so emphatically repeated. Among TV and radio talkers and entertainers, there is none who commands anything like the deference that Limbaugh commands from Republicans: not Rachel Maddow, not Jon Stewart, not Michael Moore, not Keith Olbermann at his zenith. Democratic politicians may wish for favorable comment from their talkers, but they are not terrified of negative comment from them in the way that Republican politicians live in fear of a negative word from Limbaugh” (see January 28-29, 2009). Frum asks why conservatives are responding to Limbaugh’s tirade against Fluke by finding old instances of liberal misconduct and throwing them into the discussion. “[W]hy the impulse to counter one outrageous stunt by rummaging through the archives in search of some supposedly offsetting outrageous stunt? Why not respond to an indecent act on its own terms, and then—if there’s another indecency later—react to that too, and on its own terms? Instead, public life is reduced to a revenge drama. Each offense is condoned by reference to some previous offense by some undefined ‘them’ who supposedly once did something even worse, or anyway nearly as bad, at some point in the past.” However, he concludes, Limbaugh’s latest transgression “is so ‘piggish,’ to borrow a word from Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), as to overwhelm the revenge drama.… It is the bottom of the barrel of shock talk. And the good news is that from the bottom of the barrel, there is nowhere to go but up.” [CNN, 3/5/2012]
American Forces Network logo. The organization is also known as Armed Forces Network. [Source: Public domain]Nearly 9,000 people sign an online petition in a single day calling on Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to remove radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh from Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio, which serves US troops overseas. Limbaugh has earned the ire of many after vilifying a female law student for three days on his radio show over her advocacy of insurer-paid contraceptive coverage (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Limbaugh has apologized for his tirade (see March 3, 2012), but advertisers are leaving his broadcast over the controversy (see March 2, 2012 and After). For now, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, the military will continue to air Limbaugh on its radio broadcast. The petition, started by private citizens but hosted on the White House’s Web site, objects to taxpayer money being spent on a show hosted by someone whose “remarks this week were well beyond the pale of what should be broadcast to our military and their families, supported with our tax dollars,” it states. “There is no excuse for the US government, in any capacity, giving this man an audience.” The same day the petition is posted online, VoteVets, an organization of veterans opposed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, releases a letter from four female veterans calling on the Defense Department to drop Limbaugh from AFN’s programming. “Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform,” the letter reads. “Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other—women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect. When many of our female troops use birth control, for Limbaugh to say they are ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes’ is beyond the pale. It isn’t just disrespectful to our women serving our country, but it’s language that goes against everything that makes our military work. Again, we swore to uphold our Constitution, including the freedom of speech, and would not take that away from anyone—even Limbaugh. But that does not mean AFN should broadcast him. In fact, it shouldn’t.” [Air Force Times, 3/5/2012; Think Progress, 3/5/2012]
Peter Gabriel. [Source: XPosure / London Daily Mail]Musicians such as Peter Gabriel and Kim Wilson, and the rock bands Rush and Rage Against the Machine, ask that their music no longer be used as part of Rush Limbaugh’s broadcast. Limbaugh, a conservative talk show host, set off a firestorm of controversy when he spent three days vilifying a female law student over her position on insurer-provided contraception (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Gabriel, the former singer for the rock band Genesis, is reportedly appalled to learn that his solo single “Sledgehammer” was playing underneath a portion of one of Limbaugh’s tirades against law student Sandra Fluke. Limbaugh repeatedly called Fluke a “slut” while the song was playing. According to a Gabriel representative: “Peter was appalled to learn that his music was linked to Rush Limbaugh’s extraordinary attack on Sandra Flute [sic]. It is obvious from anyone that knows Peter’s work that he would never approve such a use. He has asked his representatives to make sure his music is withdrawn and especially from these unfair aggressive and ignorant comments.” Gabriel himself later writes: “I am a real believer in the freedom of speech and would defend Rush Limbaugh’s right to mouth off about almost anything. I just don’t like my work being used as the bed track for prejudice or hatred.” [NBC Chicago, 3/8/2012; London Daily Mail, 3/8/2012] Anthem Entertainment, the firm that represents the rock band Rush, also demands that Limbaugh stop using Rush’s music on his show. Limbaugh played Rush’s “The Spirit of Radio” under his talk when he asked Fluke to provide sex tapes of herself in return for insurer-provided contraception. Anthem writes: “According to media reports, Rush Limbaugh, Premiere Radio Networks, and the Rush Limbaugh Show have been using Rush’s recorded music as part of what is essentially a political broadcast. The use of Rush’s music in this way is an infringement of Rush’s copyrights and trademarks. The public performance of Rush’s music is not licensed for political purposes and any such use is in breach of public performance licenses and constitutes copyright infringement. There are civil and criminal remedies for copyright infringement, including statutory damages and fines.… Accordingly, we hereby demand that you immediately stop all use of Rush’s music and confirm that you will do so.” [Bob Cesca, 3/6/2012] Rock/rap band Rage Against the Machine and blues musician Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds also demand that Limbaugh stop using their music on his show. Rage Against the Machine leader Tom Morello, after learning that Limbaugh used the band’s song “Sleep Now in the Fire” during his tirade against Fluke, posts on Twitter: “To Rush Limbaugh: Hey Jack_ss, stop using our music on your racist, misogynist, right wing clown show. Sincerely, Rage Against The Machine.” Wilson, complaining about Limbaugh’s use of the Thunderbirds’ song “Tuff Enough,” tells an interviewer: “I don’t want people to think I’m affiliated in any way, shape or form with him. The message he promotes is something I’m totally against.” [Craig Marshall, 3/10/2012]
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]
HBO talk show host Bill Maher, a libertarian-liberal, posts a “tweet” on Twitter defending conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh for his tirade against female law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012). Maher writes: “Hate to defend #RushLimbaugh but he apologized (see March 3, 2012 and March 5, 2012), liberals looking bad not accepting. Also hate intimidation by sponsor pullout” (see March 2, 2012 and After). Think Progress reporter Judd Legum notes that Maher has his own history of demeaning women, including using a crude sexual epithet to describe former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and calling Palin and Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) “bimbos” (see March 27-28, 2011). Maher has refused to apologize for his own rhetoric, saying, “I don’t have sponsors, I’m on HBO.” [Think Progress, 3/7/2012]
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (R-MA), considered the leader in the primary race for the Republican presidential nomination, again refuses to comment on the controversy surrounding talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s three-day vilification of Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012). Romney, like many Republicans, has refused to publicly criticize Limbaugh over his actions (see March 2, 2012 and March 2, 2012). Asked during a campaign stop about his position on Limbaugh, he says, “My campaign is about jobs and the economy and scaling back the size of government and I’m not going to weigh in on that particular controversy.” [Boston Globe, 3/6/2012] Some prominent Republicans, such as Romney’s fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-TX—see March 4, 2012), former Bush White House advisor Peggy Noonan (see March 4, 2012), Senators John McCain (R-AZ—see March 5, 2012) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AZ—see March 6, 2012), and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (see March 5, 2012), have condemned Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Two days ago, the former head of a conservative women’s organization predicted that few Republicans would step up to publicly criticize Limbaugh (see March 4, 2012).
Tracie McMillan. [Source: BeFoodSmart (.com)]Talk show host Rush Limbaugh, having spent four days vilifying and deriding female law student Sandra Fluke (see February 29, 2012), March 1, 2012, March 2, 2012, and March 5, 2012), turns his attention to another woman, author and investigative journalist Tracie McMillan. She recently wrote a book entitled The American Way of Eating. Limbaugh calls McMillan a “babe,” an “authorette,” and “one of those single white women,” and tells his listeners: “What is it with all of these young single white women, overeducated—doesn’t mean intelligent. For example, Tracie McMillan, the author of this book, seems to be just out of college and already she has been showered with awards, including the 2006 James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism.… Her degree is not in food or nutrition. She has a B.A. from New York University in political science.” Some, including McMillan, believe that the “young single white women, overeducated—doesn’t mean intelligent” comment is a veiled reference to Fluke. In an interview with the Atlantic Wire, McMillan says she believes Limbaugh is attacking her based on her gender. “It’s been really interesting to have somebody be that openly dismissive of my work strictly based on the fact that I’m female,” she says. “There’s no other way to think about it except that Rush Limbaugh just doesn’t think women count.” Her book is about issues facing the way Americans eat and the conditions food workers toil in, and she says having a conversation about those issues would be very acceptable. However, she says, Limbaugh wants to attack her for being female. Atlantic Wire reporter Adam Clark Estes writes: “It’s hard to comprehend exactly what Limbaugh is try[ing] to say. He suggests that McMillan is overeducated but not intelligent, naive, and out of her league.” [Think Progress, 3/7/2012; Atlantic Wire, 3/7/2012]
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]
Premiere Radio Networks logo. [Source: Premiere Radio Networks]Premiere Radio Networks, the company that distributes radio shows by an array of right-wing hosts, including Rush Limbaugh, announces that 98 out of 350 advertisers, including a number of major corporations, have requested that their ads only appear on “programs free of content that you know are deemed to be offensive or controversial (for example, Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity).” The Premiere email says, “Those are defined as environments likely to stir negative sentiment from a very small percentage of the listening public.” Limbaugh vilified law student Sandra Fluke for three days on his radio show (see February 29, 2012, March 1, 2012, and March 2, 2012), and though he issued an apology on his Web site (see March 3, 2012), advertisers have dropped their sponsorship of his show in increasingly large numbers (see March 2, 2012 and After) following a widespread outcry of anger against Limbaugh’s rhetoric. Now, large advertisers such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Allstate, Geico, Prudential, State Farm, McDonald’s, and Subway Restaurants have asked that their advertising be removed from Premiere’s right-wing talk shows. Industry insider Valerie Geller tells a reporter: “I have talked with several reps who report that they’re having conversations with their clients, who are asking not to be associated with specifically polarizing controversial hosts, particularly if those hosts are ‘mean-spirited.’ While most products and services offered on these shows have strong competitors, and enjoy purchasing the exposure that many of these shows and hosts can offer, they do not wish to be ‘tarred’ with the brush of anger, or endure customer anger, or, worse, product boycotts.” For nearly two decades, Limbaugh has been at the forefront of the movement that insisted conservative talk shows on radio and television must counterbalance what he and others have termed the “liberal bias” of the mainstream media (see Summer 1970, October 7, 1996, October 9, 2002, October 8, 2003, December 2004, December 14, 2005, December 19-20, 2005, December 21, 2005, May 2008, October 23-24, 2008, February 24, 2009, and August 11, 2009). After cable television and Internet access fragmented the market, “niche” audiences such as Limbaugh’s have provided the most reliable listenership and viewers, and the highest comparative ratings. However, the demographics are changing for right-wing talk. Limbaugh, Levin, Savage, Hannity, and others generally rate best among aging white males, a demographic that is less profitable than it used to be. Now, the prize advertising demographic is women aged 24 to 55, a demographic that has been leaving the right-wing talkers in steadily increasing numbers, and now makes up the forefront of the angry pushback against Limbaugh over his public savaging of a young female law student over a political disagreement. Some, including Limbaugh’s brother, right-wing talk show host David Limbaugh, have complained of a “left-wing jihad” against conservative radio hosts. However, as reporter John Avlon writes: “[T]he irony is that the same market forces that right-wing talk-radio hosts champion are helping to seal their fate. Advertisers are abandoning the shows because they no longer want to be associated with the hyperpartisan—and occasionally hateful—rhetoric. They are finally drawing a line because consumers are starting to take a stand.” Moreover, the advent of social media has made the response time for protesters and angry consumers almost immediate. Geller says: “In the past, a letter, petition, or phone campaign took a few days to put together and longer to execute. But now customers [listeners] can instantly rally using Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging to make their displeasure with a client, product, or service known immediately. These movements can happen fast.” Avlon concludes: “When big money starts shifting, it is a sign of a deeper tide that is difficult to undo, even if you are an industry icon like Rush Limbaugh. It is a sign that the times are changing. Let’s hope that what emerges is an evolution of the industry, away from stupid, predictable, and sometimes hateful hyperpartisanship and toward something a little smarter and more civil.” [Radio-Info.com, 3/9/2012; Daily Beast, 3/10/2012]
Entity Tags: Mark Levin, Valerie Geller, General Motors, Geico, Ford Motor Company, Allstate, John Avlon, Tom Leykis, Toyota Motor Corporation, State Farm, Premiere Radio Networks, Michael Savage, McDonald’s, Prudential, Subway Restaurants, Glenn Beck, Sandra Fluke, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
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