Though Rush Limbaugh issued an apology Monday for his inappropriate comments toward a female Georgetown University Law student, many, including his advertisers, are not accepting it.
On his radio show last Wednesday, Limbaugh attacked Sandra Fluke, who had been asked to testify in a Democrat congressional session about her college health care plan that does not cover contraceptives, by calling her a “slut” and “prostitute.” Limbaugh attacked the student for three days, saying “If we’re going to have to pay for this, then we want something in return, Ms. Fluke, and that would be the videos of all this sex posted online so we can see what we’re getting for our money.”
Cases like this show that no matter where one stands on the birth control debate, name-calling is a surefire way to lose one’s backing and support. Such statements undermine any level-headed argument Limbaugh could have made against the recent mandate to cover birth control expenses in health care plans. The attacks were unfounded by many accounts. While she spoke about a controversial issue, Fluke was invited to the committee session; she did not come before anyone asking to be paid to have sex.
Of course, the use of contraception has no correlation to the amount of sex one has, or even implies that the user is having sex at all. Many women use birth control to regulate their menstrual cycles, control acne or prevent ovarian cysts. Regardless of one’s view on contraceptives, calling a student a slut and asking for her to post sex tapes is unacceptable behavior. Making such uncalled-for comments also did not produce Limbaugh’s desired outcome of supporting the conservative side of the debate. In fact, many Republican and Democrat leaders believe the comments may rally women to vote for Barack Obama in the upcoming election, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The 33 sponsors and two radio stations who pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show were not exaggerating the significance of the issue and were right in their response to denounce Limbaugh after he attacked Fluke so brutally.
While Limbaugh apologized for the comments, he said the inappropriate attempts at being funny were descents down to the level of the political left, a comment which will surely only fan the flames of the controversy. Some, including Republican Michele Bachmann, have argued that conservatives are unfairly targeted for comments like these. Yet, after making similar comments about Sarah Palin on his show, Bill Maher was heavily criticized by the National Organization of Women among others. However, since HBO is funded by viewers Maher remains on the air, a luxury Limbaugh does not have. Limbaugh is entitled to his comments, no matter how baseless, under free speech. Yet, he must suffer the consequences of his speech – in this case losing advertisers.
Comments like Limbaugh’s should be deplored, regardless of where they came from. And while being in the spotlight will always invite criticism, the advertisers, as well as the public’s reaction, showed that it is unacceptable from anyone speaking on any subject to harshly attack someone unprovoked.