Nel's New Day

March 3, 2012

Limbaugh’s Apology–Too Little, Too Late

Fox: home of the bigots—sexists, racists, homophobes, etc. Now they’re acquired the skills of Pat Buchanan. They haven’t hired him for his own show yet, but in his recent appearance on the Sean Hannity program, Buchanan said, “Sean, you know, a couple of months ago Obama was so low in the polls even the Kenyans were saying he was born in the United States.”

Buchanan will have to work hard to keep up with Rush Limbaugh, already employed by Fox. I was away from my computer for 32 hours and came back to find ten emails with anti-Limbaugh petitions after he called Sandra Fluke a slut for supporting free birth control and accusing her of being a prostitute and soliciting money. Thus far Limbaugh has lost at least six advertisers, so the petitions must be working.

After the firestorm of the past four days, Limbaugh decided to post a weak apology on his website: “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.” He weakened his apology further when he said, “I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress.” He did add, “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.” Considering his use of words about Fluke, the question remains about which words he would use if he did intend a “personal attack.”

Fluke gained national visibility last month when a House Oversight Committee, led by Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), refused to let her testify at the first hearing about insurance companies’ being required to provide free birth control. After photos of the all-male panel of witnesses were made public—and became popular fodder for television comedy shows including Saturday Night Live—Democrats held another hearing which included Fluke’s testimony. Limbaugh started his obscene remarks when he said that Georgetown students are apparently “having so much sex they’re going broke.”

Where are the Republicans when they hear their unofficial leader talk like this? It’s almost funny to watch how hard Republicans work not to criticize Rush Limbaugh. Rick Santorum’s take on the situation is that Limbaugh is “absurd, but that’s you know … an entertainer can be absurd.” House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) went so far as to call Limbaugh’s comments “inappropriate” but added “as is trying to raise money off the situation,” according to Boehner’s spokesman. The Republicans have spent the last four days trying to spin the Fluke situation as the way that Democrats are making the issue a political one, despite the fact that Limbaugh initiated it.

Limbaugh is not alone in his inexcusable treatment of Fluke. “You [Fluke] want me to give you my hard earned money so you can have sex,” Bill O’Reilly said on his Fox show, but added that insurance should cover Viagra. When O’Reilly claimed that Fluke wants the government pay for her “social life,” he totally ignored the reason behind the 30-year-old law student’s activism. Fluke’s concern came “after her friend developed ovarian cysts and found that the oral contraception she needed to stop the cysts from growing was not covered under the school’s insurance.” And yes, contraception medication, which can be used for other reasons than birth control, can be expensive. Women, however, should be able to use birth control in whatever way they personally deem necessary.

Comments from lesser known conservatives are just as vituperative as those from Limbaugh and O’Reilly. “Sex-Crazed Co-Eds…” are the first words from a column headline by Craig Bannister about Fluke. Rich Lowery followed that in his New York Times column: “By any reasonable standard, we are one of the most lavishly contracepted society in the history of the planet.”

It’s also not just the Republican men who play fast and loose with the “slut” term. The new Communications Director for the California Republican Party, Jennifer Kerns, twittered the following under her username@CAPartyGirl: “Stripper, or strategist? Democrat strategist on MSNBC raging against Limbaugh, her name is supposedly “Krystal Ball.” Speaking of #sluts…” Yes, Ms. Kerns, Krystal Ball is her real name, the one she used when she ran for the House of Representatives in Virginia during the 2010 election. And her name is a problem because?

Last week, Liz Trotta (on Fox—where else?) declared that women in the military should “expect” to be raped and criticized the money spent in dealing with rape in the military: “And the feminists have also directed them, really, to spend a lot of money. They have sexual counselors all over the place, victims’ advocates, sexual response coordinators… So, you have this whole bureaucracy upon bureaucracy being built up with all kinds of levels of people to support women in the military who are now being raped too much.” Since her statement, there has been much dialog about wondering about her assessment of how much rape is “too much.”

Some conservative judges are as openly bigoted as the politicians. Chief Judge Richard Cebull, a George W. Bush appointee to the federal district court in Montana, forwarded an email, which he had read and intended to send, that compared President Obama’s conception to bestiality: “A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the email “joke” reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’” Then Cebull tried to excuse the email as being anti-Obama, not racist. Whether he meant the statement as racist or not, he wrote this about the President of the United States. Eventually he apologized, but only after the information went public. And this is a judge who will make life-and-death decisions about people!

After Limbaugh’s savage attack on Fluke, President Obama made a supportive telephone call to her. White House spokesman Jay Carney said that Obama called her to “express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks” and to thank her for speaking out on an issue of public policy.

Even Georgetown University, a Catholic institution that is opposed to the controversial Obama administration measure, came out in support of Fluke against what they described the “misogynistic” and “vitriolic” discourse. “She [Fluke] was respectful, sincere, and spoke with conviction. She provided a model of civil discourse. This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people,” Georgetown University President John DeGioia said. “One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to respectful free expression. And yet, some of those who disagreed with her position–including Rush Limbaugh and commentators throughout the blogosphere and in various other media channels–responded with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

Santorum has said that Obama wants to train people in liberal thinking by sending them to college. If Georgetown’s response is “liberal,” then the country will benefit from modeling this behavior. The most effective way to silence people is to verbally attack and try to humiliate them so that they will never speak up again. Fluke has shown great bravery in refusing to be silenced as have the people who defend her.

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