By Shannon Clarke
Rush Limbaugh, the unofficial spokesman for the worst caricature of Republicans in the United States isn’t known for mincing words. And while the talk show host’s litany of homophobic, racist, and sexist views is well established, his comments about Georgetown law student, Sandra Fluke, angered even his supporters. Fluke was initially denied a chance to speak at an exclusively male Congressional hearing on religious liberty and contraception. A second, informal committee was held at the request of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, which is where Fluke testified.
Limbaugh responded on his Feb. 29 show, but not to Fluke’s comments by calling her a “slut”.
“What does it say about the college coed Susan [sic] Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex?” he said, adding: “What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”
Never mind that Limbaugh doesn’t seem to understand how birth control works, nor does he care that safe, affordable contraception actually saves taxpayers money. The idea that women, all women, would be in control of their sexual health was
obviously the bigger issue, hence the slut shaming.For good measure, he decided to go after feminists as well, or, as he’s fond of calling them, “femi-nazis”.
“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. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
News outlets picked up the story, generating thousands of comments online. Soon, “Rush Limbaugh” was trending on Twitter (#BoycottRush), as people demanded his sponsors pull their ads from his show. Several did. By Saturday night, seven companies, Sleep Train, Sleep Number, Legal Zoom, Citrix, Quicken Loans and Carbonite announced they were suspending their ads. Carbonite posted a letter on their blog announcing their distaste for Limbaugh’s comments.
“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.”
When the firestorm started, Limbaugh stood behind his comments, likening affordable birth control to a “new welfare program” and continued to insist that Fluke was demanding the government supplement her sex life. He also accused the Democratic party of vilifying Republicans as a threat to women.
“If abortion were still the winning issue that the Democrats think that it used to be, Sandra Fluke would be testifying about that,” said Limbaugh.
But on Sunday, Limbaugh delivered the classic non-apology apology. He acknowledged his choice of words (but not the meaning behind them) was wrong, and that his comments were intended to be humourous. However, he doesn’t believe the government should be paying for “sexual recreational activities”. Despite Limbaugh’s “apology” ProFlowers, an online flower company, announced they were pulling their ads a few hours later, the seventh sponsor, at the time of writing, to do so. The Republican Party is also taking pains to distance themselves from Limbaugh’s comments, reports the National Post.
The United States congress has been embroiled in debate the last couple of months over birth control coverage. It began when the Obama administration announced a proposal that would have faith-based institutions provide free coverage for birth control. Catholic-affiliated companies including several universities were not pleased with the decision and some, like, Fordham University in New York, flat out refused to comply. Obama ultimately scrapped the plan. Representative Carolyn Maloney was one of four house democrats who walked out of the hearing last week in protest of lack of women speakers. She pointed to Limbaugh’s comments as a “wake up call” to the women’s movement.
Limbaugh’s argues the government shouldn’t be paying for sexual recreation, suggesting sex is only for heterosexual married couples that want to have children. He says the government has no business in its citizens’ bedrooms, but is staunchly against gay rights. He says women should be “responsible and accountable”. Access to affordable birth control allows women to be responsible and accountable for own their bodies and their sex lives.
The Republican Party may not be at war with women, but, if Limbaugh’s arguments are at all representative of their views (and he certainly believes they are), the GOP is at war with women’s reproductive freedom.