Anatomy of an Apology: Rush Limbaugh's Shameless Week

Rush Limbaugh has issued an apology to Sandra Fluke: He never meant to "attack" the Georgetown law student by calling her a "slut" and a "prostitute." Advertisers are dropping out, anyway.

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Money talks, apparently, to Rush Limbaugh, as the conservative radio host, after successfully trolling the nation's pundits by attacking birth control, has issued an apology to Sandra Fluke in a last-ditch effort to stanch the flow of advertisers abandoning the show in droves. The comments began on Wednesday, after Fluke, a Georgetown law student and activist, was barred by Republicans to speak before an all-male Congressional panel on contraception. Fluke instead testified before Democratic members of the House of Representatives, which earned this commentary from Limbaugh:

"What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke [sic] who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she 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. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex."

The next day, after the Senate had already voted down the GOP measure attempting to block women's access to contraception coverage, and amid growing controversy over his incendiary and nonsensical comments, Limbaugh chose to doubled-down on his attacks on Fluke.

"So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here's the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I'll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch."

He also remarked in that broadcast, "I think this is hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. The Left has been thrown into an outright conniption fit!" Except so had the Right: Rick Santorum called the claims "absurd," a spokesoman for John Boenher said they were "inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation." Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown said via his own spokesperson that "as the father of two daughters, [he] found the remarks offensive and reprehensible and believes Limbaugh should apologize." As a Twitter and Reddit boycott campaign mobilized on Friday, HuffPost tech blogger Catharine Smith writes, news had broken that President Obama had called Fluke to offer words of encouragement. That brought more mockery and shaming from Limbaugh.

Meanwhile, advertisers were pulling out in droves: First Sleep Number, then The Sleep Train, Quicken Loans, Legal Zoom, and Citrix all pulled their spots from his show.

Which brings us to his apology, posted to his website on Saturday:

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.

Too little, too late: The show has lost another sponsor in Carbonite media storage. CEO David Friend posted this statement on the company website today:

“No one with daughters the age of Sandra Fluke, and I have two, could possibly abide the insult and abuse heaped upon this courageous and well-intentioned young lady. Mr. Limbaugh, with his highly personal attacks on Miss Fluke, overstepped any reasonable bounds of decency. Even though Mr. Limbaugh has now issued an apology, we have nonetheless decided to withdraw our advertising from his show. We hope that our action, along with the other advertisers who have already withdrawn their ads, will ultimately contribute to a more civilized public discourse.”


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.