From the time Sandra Fluke requested to go before Congress to speak on women's healthcare issues and how a mandate required employers to offer contraception as part of their insurance options, Rush Limbaugh has had her in his radar.
Ms. Fluke never got to speak before the full Congress because a special committee of all men was formed to discuss women's healthcare issues. Yes, that's right, an all-male panel that would not allow a woman to be part of discussions. Ms. Fluke did testify in front of a Democratic subcommittee. The full testimony can be viewed here. In her testimony Ms. Fluke spoke of her Jesuit college student healthcare program not covering birth control pills and the costs in money and other health issues for which the medications are also used, for herself and many friends.
In her testimony she said:
"In the media lately, conservative Catholic organizations have been asking: what did we expect when we enrolled at a Catholic school? We can only answer that we expected women to be treated equally, to not have our school create untenable burdens that impede our academic success. We expected that our schools would live up to the Jesuit creed of cura personalis, to care for the whole person, by meeting all of our medical needs. We expected that when we told our universities of the problems this policy created for students, they would help us. We expected that when 94% of students opposed the policy, the university would respect our choices regarding insurance students pay for completely unsubsidized by the university. We did not expect that women would be told in the national media that if we wanted comprehensive insurance that met our needs, not just those of men, we should have gone to school elsewhere, even if that meant a less prestigious university. We refuse to pick between a quality education and our health, and weresent that, in the 21st century, anyone thinks it’s acceptable to ask us to make this choice simply because we are women."
Since her testimony Rush Limbaugh has been unmerciful in his criticizing of Ms. Fluke. He has continued to falsely assert that the government should not be paying for Ms. Fluke's medication and confusing this issue with the larger "Obamacare" issue. For days on end Limbaugh went on about Ms. Fluke, calling her a "prostitute," "promiscuous," and other slurs and saying she should post sex videos online for everyone to watch since "we" are paying for her to have sex.
The majority of the public recoiled in disgust at Limbaugh's comments and as he continued to pound these points over and over. He issued a weak apology over the weekend in which he continued on a long partisan rant, continuing to misstake we are paying for these medications and taking jabs at the Obama administration.
It didn't end there. On Monday, it became obvious how sorry Limbaugh really is as he continued to make jokes and grandstand about the issue.
"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 to describe Sandra Fluke," he said.
"The apology to her over the weekend was sincere," he said
Limbaugh then spent an inordinate amount of time Monday attempting to put his past ridicule of Fluke into political perspective. In doing so, he dismissed her as "a 30-year-old birth control activist" who gave "unverified and inexpert testimony about how Georgetown's long-standing and public policy has hurt her unnamed friends."
"If you know the place doesn't offer contraceptives when you sign up, and that is your big political issue, then why are you really there?" Limbaugh asked. "They are intentionally targeting schools like Georgetown to advance an agenda of ultimately forcing them to abandon their religious beliefs." Link here
The public and sponsors of the Rush Limbaugh show have started to take action. As of the close of business on Monday, March 5, at least 12 sponsors have pulled their advertising from Limbaugh's show. At least one radio station has stopped airing the show completely.
Some conservative pundits ask why is it different for Limbaugh to say these things, when commedians such as Bill Maher have said things about Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman using foul language. The difference is Bill Maher, a commedian and known independent, is on HBO, a pay network. There are no sponsors and no airing of his shows over the public airwaves. Rush Limbaugh is a well-known, highly rated conservative political commentator who has considerable influence over the Republican base. Local stations that broadcast across public airwaves lease their signals from the FCC and are required to operate in the best interest of the community. Thus, they have a larger responsibility to see the content of their programing is not inflammatory, slanderous or defaming the character of a private citizen who happened to testify before a subcommittee.
Two GOP candidates issued statements against Limbaugh's actions, but Mitt Romney has yet to issue a statement. Old guards of the Republican party, such as Senator John McCain have made strong statements against Limbaugh. Perhaps David Frum of CNN summed it up best in his article entitled "Are we being fair to Rush Limbaugh?":
Most fundamentally, why 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.
But this latest Limbaugh outburst is so "piggish," to borrow a word from Peggy Noonan, as to overwhelm the revenge drama. (On Saturday, Limbaugh apologized "for the insulting word choices.")
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.