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Obama steps into Limbaugh ‘slut’ controversy

By DAVID CRARY
March 3, 2012

Rush Limbaugh: The mouth that roared (Las Vegas News Bureau)

Stepping into an emerging culture clash over women, President Barack Obama made a supportive phone call Friday to a law student who testified before Congress about the need for birth control coverage, only to be called a “slut” by Rush Limbaugh.

For Obama, it was an emphatic plunge into the latest flare-up on social issues. Democratic officeholders and liberal advocacy groups have accused Republicans of waging a “war on women” because of GOP stances on contraception and abortion rights, and Limbaugh’s tirade on his radio talk show was seen as an escalation.

In addition to her call from the president, the third-year Georgetown University law student, Sandra Fluke, was backed by members of Congress, women’s groups, and the administration and faculty at her Roman Catholic university.

Demands for Limbaugh’s sponsors to pull their ads from his show rocketed through cyberspace, and at least four companies, Quicken Loans, LegalZoom online legal document service, and bedding retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, bowed to the pressure.

Obama considers Limbaugh’s remarks “reprehensible,” according to White House spokesman Jay Carney. He said the president called Fluke 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.

“The fact that our political discourse has become debased in many ways is bad enough,” Carney said. “It is worse when it’s directed at a private citizen who was simply expressing her views.”

Obama reached Fluke by phone as she was waiting to go on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

“He’s really a very a kind man,” Fluke later told The Associated Press. “He just called to express concern for me and to make sure I was OK and to say that he supported me and to thank me for speaking out about something that’s so important to so many women.”

As for Limbaugh’s remarks, Fluke said, “I just thought that they were really outside the bounds of civil discourse.”

By calling Fluke and injecting himself into the Limbaugh controversy, Obama sent a message to more than one law student. He was reaching out to young voters and women — two groups whose support he needs in this re-election year. And he was underscoring that the White House, despite bungling its rollout of the birth control policy, sees it as a winning issue and welcomes Obama’s name next to it.

Fluke was given a chance to talk to Congress on Feb. 23, even though lawmakers were on a break and just a few Democratic allies were on hand to cheer her on. The previous week, a Republican-controlled House committee had rejected Democrats’ request that she testify on the Obama administration’s policy requiring that employees of religion-affiliated institutions have access to health insurance that covers birth control.

Republicans have faulted parts of Obama’s health care reform as unconstitutional, including an initial requirement, since withdrawn by the president, that contraceptives be covered under the insurance policies of businesses, including those with religious affiliations.

Fluke said that Georgetown, a Jesuit institution, does not provide contraception coverage in its student health plan and that contraception can cost a woman more than $3,000 during law school. She spoke of a friend who had an ovary removed because the insurance company wouldn’t cover the prescription birth control she needed to stop the growth of cysts.

On Wednesday, Limbaugh unleashed a lengthy and often savage verbal assault on Fluke.

“What does it say about the college coed … who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?” Limbaugh said. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

He went on to suggest that Fluke distribute sex tapes of herself.

“If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it,” he said. “We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

The backlash began quickly and showed no signs of abating as scores of Democratic members of Congress denounced Limbaugh and urged their GOP colleagues to do likewise.

The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, responded through a spokesman.

“The Speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation,” said Boehner aide Michael Steel.

Later, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the committee that blocked Fluke’s original testimony, issued a letter repudiating Limbaugh’s comments but also excoriating the Democrats and their supporters.

“I ask that you join me in a broader condemnation of the attacks on people of faith … and the regrettable personal attacks that have come from individuals on both sides of the issue,” Issa wrote to Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

Boehner and Issa are among the GOP leaders accused of waging the purported “war on women.” The topic has been cited often in recent fundraising pitches by many liberal advocacy groups, and they recently have shown more aggressiveness.

In early February, after a three-day furor, the Susan G. Komen breast cancer charity dropped plans to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, a leading abortion provider. And more recently, after incurring protests and ridicule, Republican politicians in Virginia backed away from a bill that would have required invasive vaginal ultrasounds as a pre-condition for many abortions.

Amid this controversy, polls show that Obama’s support among women has been increasing.

At Georgetown, more than 130 faculty members signed a letter praising Fluke for her “grace and strength” and condemning Limbaugh’s remarks. The university president, John J. DeGioia, did likewise.

He said Limbaugh and others responded to Fluke “with behavior that can only be described as misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

On Thursday, aware of the firestorm he had ignited, Limbaugh was unapologetic.

“I think this is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious” he said on his show. “The left has been thrown into an outright conniption fit!”

On Friday, still defiant, Limbaugh scoffed at the concept of a conservative “war on women.”

“Amazingly, when there is the slightest bit of opposition to this new welfare entitlement being created, then all of a sudden we hate women! We want ‘em barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen,” he said. “And now, at the end of this week, I am the person that the women of America are to fear the most.”

Longtime Republican strategist Terry Holt suggested voters might see Obama’s response to an over-the-top radio host as “pure pandering” to woo women’s votes.

“This conversation seems to serve Rush Limbaugh and President Obama equally well,” Holt said.

Fluke, in Washington, issued a statement expressing gratitude for the support she’s received and resolve to continue speaking out.

“No woman deserves to be disrespected in this manner. This language is an attack on all women, and has been used throughout history to silence our voices,” she said.

“The millions of American women who have and will continue to speak out in support of women’s health care and access to contraception prove that we will not be silenced.”

Rick Santorum, one of the Republican presidential contenders seeking to oppose Obama, commented to CNN about Limbaugh’s remarks.

“He’s being absurd,” Santorum said. “But that’s, you know, an entertainer can be absurd.”

While campaigning in Ohio for the Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney was asked about Limbaugh’s comments and steered his answer away from the uproar.

“It’s not the language I would have used,” Romney said after a campaign event in Cleveland. “But 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.”

___

Associated Press Writer Kasie Hunt contributed to this report from Cleveland, Ohio.

(c) Copyright 2012 The Associated Press

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10 Responses to Obama steps into Limbaugh ‘slut’ controversy

  1. Bill Cravener

    March 3, 2012 at 6:52 am

    Rush Limbaugh’s tired old act would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. This pill-popping blowhard’s bullying tactics are an embarrassment and to think this is one of the GOP’s grand spokesmen.

  2. Hal Brown

    March 3, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Limbaugh, among other things said Fluke “must be paid to have sex….
    “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right. It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception”

    What viewers of Fox News will never have explained to them is that Limbaugh, from this statement at least, doesn’t know a thing about contraception and female biology.

    Dr. Rachel Maddow (okay, not an M.D. but a Ph.D. in political science from Oxford University where she went on a Rhodes scholarship) explained the basics last night with a schematic of the female reproductive organs in the background.

    It would have been funny it it wasn’t an appalling indictment of the ignorance of a large segment of the far right populace.

    Tongue somewhat in cheek Maddow explained that the number of birth control pills a woman used wasn’t dependent on how frequently she had sex. She laboriously repeated that a woman didn’t take a pill every time she had sex.

    I wondered why I hadn’t heard this explanation on other shows. Limbaugh’s contention was that the more a woman had sexual relations the more money she needed to spend on birth control. After all Limbaugh said she is having so much sex she can’t afford it. “They having a lot of sex because they need a lot of contraception.” He said “Fluke’s boyfriends are lined up around the block, or they would have been in my day.”

    Aside from the fact that a woman who isn’t sexually active may take birth control pills exclusively for medical reasons, Limbaugh doesn’t grasp that the majority of women take them for family planning. He might want to look at the intercourse frequencies for women, especially those between 18-29. The national averages which you can see here: http://www.kinseyinstitute.org/resources/FAQ.html#frequency They are far lower than his lewd fantasies suggest.

    Dare I call Limbaugh a frustrated sex crazed man with an overactive fantasy life who would like nothing better than to watch pornographic videos of attractive female law students? After all he invited Fluke to send him a video of her sexual activities. There is evidence of that from his own words.

    Limbaugh may have crossed the line from opinion to stating defamatory falsehoods as fact. This is the basis for a successful defamation lawsuit. Not only would I like to see him off the air, but I would like to see him sued.

    Short of him having to go to prison for prescription drug abuse (one can dream) I like to see him loose a good chunk of his vast fortune.

  3. Michaele Gold

    March 3, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Way to go, Hal!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. griff

    March 3, 2012 at 11:54 am

    A radio commentator? Really?

    I think this should be between the insurance company and its customers.

    Why any one cares what Rush Limbaugh has to say is beyond my comprehension.

  5. thomas mc

    March 3, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Rush Limbaugh is the lowest form of slime, the perfect mascot for the GOP!

  6. Hal Brown

    March 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    Now Bill O’Reilly has waded into this with his attack, albeit less vitriolic and defamatory than Limbaugh. However if you play the video available on Fox News you will see a glaring omission in his argument.

    He says that we (the taxpayer) should not subsidize Ms. Fluke and other college student’s “recreational” sex lives. However, he doesn’t mention the millions of married women who use prescribed birth control.

    I wonder what he’d say if asked whether married women would fall under this category. After all, if a married woman is using birth control by definition she is having sex for recreation, not procreation.

  7. Keith

    March 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Rush Limbaugh (much like Rick Santorum) is doing the Republican Party no favors with his (their)
    far right, extremist blather.

    As the de-facto “spokespersons” for the Republicans all Limbaugh and his ilk are doing is to drive yet more “nails” into the “coffin” of the once proud party of Lincoln.

    Thankfully, their collective attempts to turn the USA into a dark age theocracy will not be successful.

    Indeed, the sooner they and their “Bible-thumping” evangelical following cease to be an effective political force, the sooner a fiscally conservative, but yet socially liberal party….that is, one that has absolutely NO BUSINESS poking its nose into people’s private bedrooms…can rise from the ashes and save the nation.

    I just hope it’s not too late.

  8. Gregg

    March 3, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Rush is an egotistic publicity prostitute…in my humble opinion.

    Can I say “whore” without being kicked out?

    If I can…then sub prostitute with whore.

    If not…then I guess I won’t be able to post again.

  9. Jim B.

    March 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Many years ago, David Letterman had Rush Limbaugh on his show as a guest. In his usual style, Letterman occasionally would lightly tease or jab Limbaugh during the conversation, and I cannot remember Rush crackin’ a smile…It appeared he was not the kind of guy who can laugh at himself.

    At the end of the interview, Letterman asked Limbaugh something like: “Rush do you ever wake up in the morning and wonder ‘Am I just a bag of gas?'” The audience loved it and laughed, of course, but, again, Rush did not smile hardly seemed to react.

    So, if what Letterman suspected is true, and today if we’d put a pressure gauge on Limbaugh, no doubt, the reading would be beyond the red danger zone. It’s possible that the gauge might fly out and hurt someone. And, for heaven’s sake, people, don’t light a match within 25 feet of him.

    I can only think that with this law student incident and then his doubling down regarding it by stating coarser and more vile comments about her that everybody better stand back…way back, because…he’s….ready…to….BLOW!!!!!

  10. Hal Brown

    March 3, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    The Limbaugh “apology” prompted no doubt by Clear Channel insisting that he make it because he was losing so many advertisers:

    “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.

    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.”

    The point I made about what Bill O’Reilly said can be reiterated. Limbaugh is ignoring the fact that millions of married women use prescribed birth control for recreational sex. The Republicans would allow companies to deny insurance coverage for contraception to both married and unmarried women.

    The Democrats and non-partisan women’s groups need to publicize this. Perhaps Limbaugh, O’Reilly, and who knows about other Republican politicians, think that the only reason to have sexual intercourse is for procreation.

    Sex for recreation? It sounds like some kind of European socialist idea…