Does Rush Limbaugh’s apology put his ‘slut’ comment behind him? Not likely

Rush Limbaugh apologized for calling Sandra Fluke a “slut” because of her comments about contraception. But that unusual retreat by the sharp-tongued talk show host has not ended the matter as a political weapon.

Brian Jones/Las Vegas News Bureau/AP
Rush Limbaugh speaks during a Miss America news conference at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas in 2010. Limbaugh has drawn fire from many directions for his depiction of a college student as a "slut" because she testified before Congress about the need for contraceptive coverage.

You didn’t think Rush Limbaugh’s apology to Sandra Fluke for calling her a “slut” because of her comments about contraception would end the controversy, did you? In the middle of a presidential campaign? Of course not.

Anything involving sex, women’s rights, and the acid-tongued conservative radio broadcaster was bound to keep political partisans and the media stirring the pot for days, if not longer.

Just to review….

When a Republican House committee chairman (Darrell Issa) denied Georgetown University law school student Sandra Fluke permission to speak at a hearing, minority Democrats quickly organized their own unofficial event at which Ms. Fluke talked about the importance of having contraception services covered under government-required health insurance plans.

Never one to waste an opportunity to attack liberal causes, Mr. Limbaugh took after Fluke – calling her a “slut,” a “prostitute,” and – one of his personal favorites – a “feminazi.” He also suggested that she make sex tapes and post them online “so we can all watch.”

Outrage ensued on the left, grudging criticisms of Limbaugh on the right – some from Republicans known to have apologized to Limbaugh when he took them to task for not being sufficiently conservative.

To Democrats, it was proof of the GOP’s “war on women.”

Advertisers on Limbaugh’s syndicated radio show, heard by millions every day, began jumping ship.

All of that continued Sunday.

“I think what Rush Limbaugh said about that young woman was not only vile and degrading to her, but to women across the country,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s senior campaign adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week.” Obama had called Fluke to personally offer his support.

The liberal political action committee EMILY’s List put out a call for contributions “to elect pro-choice Democratic women who will stand up to rightwing extremists like Rush Limbaugh!”

“We can't let the Republican crusade against women's rights and access to essential health care continue,” the group says in a new web post. “And make no mistake, people like Rush Limbaugh want to punish each and every one of us for the crime of speaking out on our own behalf. When Rush calls Sandra Fluke a slut, he's calling all of us sluts.”

Even though Limbaugh had “sincerely” apologized, major advertiser Carbonite, the online backup company, said that was not sufficient. In a statement, Carbonite CEO David Friend said:

“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.”

“UltraViolet,” which describes itself as “a community of women and men, fighting to expand women's rights and combat sexism everywhere,” continues to pressure other Limbaugh advertisers to bail out.

"Rush's apology wasn't actually an apology," said UltraViolet co-founder Shaunna Thomas, formerly of the liberal political action group MoveOn.org. "He did little more than continue to expose himself as the anti-woman and offensive media personality that he is. Our campaign to pressure advertisers to drop their sponsorship of his show will continue next week. No radio show that attacks women should be rewarded with advertising dollars. And more than 84,000 of our members who signed a petition in the last day agree."

Some grassroots groups have been gathering signatures asking the FCC to take Limbaugh off the air.

Meanwhile, conservative columnist George Will is taking Republicans to task for their muted, forced comments regarding Limbaugh’s insulting comments about a young woman.

“[House Speaker John] Boehner comes out and says Rush’s language was inappropriate. Using the salad fork for your entrée, that’s inappropriate. Not this stuff,” Will said Sunday on ABC News. “And it was depressing because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they’re afraid of Rush Limbaugh.”

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