Rush Limbaugh vs. Bill Maher: Which one's words were worse?

As the Rush Limbaugh-Sandra Fluke controversy enters its second week, conservatives work to shift the conversation to left-leaning comedian Bill Maher and his rude comments about women.

(L.-r.) Chris Carlson/AP/File, Damian Dovarganes/AP/File
Limbaugh vs. Maher: This composite image shows conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh (l.) and liberal comedian Bill Maher.

Conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has landed in big trouble for calling Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke harsh names. But has liberal comedian Bill Maher escaped unscathed despite doing pretty much the same thing to other women?

That’s the charge some conservatives are making as the Limbaugh-Fluke flap enters its second week. They’re demanding that President Obama call on the "super PAC" that supports him to refuse a $1 million donation from Maher.

“Mr. Obama needs to publicly disassociate himself from Priorities USA [super political action committee] and cease all further fundraising in support of the organization, until they [super PAC officials] return Mr. Maher’s contribution immediately,” wrote conservative activist Penny Nance, executive director of Concerned Women for America, in a letter sent Thursday to White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew.

Conservative Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin seconded this call, writing in her column that the White House has set a standard about ties with misogynistic entertainers it now must live up to itself. Obama has noted that he has no direct control over what Priorities USA does, as it is an organization that’s separate from his campaign. But administration officials such as David Plouffe have (legally) appeared at Priorities USA fundraisers.

“The White House, I am quite certain, never expected this issue to come back to bite the president and his campaign. But in the New Media era with energetic grassroots conservative activists, it is not as easy as it once was to apply civility rules only to the right,” wrote Ms. Rubin on Friday in her Right Turn blog.

That’s tough language right there. Is Maher really that bad? Well, we’ll note that he has said some very bad things about Sarah Palin and other Republican women. He’s started with "bimbo,” and then moved on into derogatory gynecological references that are too obscene for us to repeat.

Maher himself has defended Limbaugh, saying that the political left looks ”bad” for refusing to accept Limbaugh’s apology. (Shouldn’t it be Ms. Fluke who accepts or rejects an apology?)

Maher told his followers on Twitter this week that what Limbaugh said was “vile,” but that he doesn’t like “fatwas.”

“Ur beating a dead pig,” he tweeted.

But if Maher’s language was vulgar, too, does he have the same position in the political firmament as does Limbaugh?

That’s the way Bill Burton, the head of Priorities USA, is responding to this issue. On Thursday, he noted that Maher is an out-and-out performing comic, while Limbaugh is something different: a quasi-pundit with ties to a political party who discusses politics on his show in an attempt to sway voters.

“The notion that there is an equivalence between what a comedian has said over the course of his career and what the de facto leader of the Republican Party said to sexually degrade a woman ... in a political debate of our time, is crazy,” said Mr. Burton in an MSNBC appearance.

We guess that means that at the moment they’re not giving Maher his million bucks back.

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