In an apology he issued to Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke for calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute” on air, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh asked the question, “What happened to personal responsibility and accountability?” He was referring to a woman’s responsibility and accountability to pay for her own contraceptives, given that, according to Limbaugh, contraceptives are “related to female promiscuity” and “personal sexual recreational activities.” He has chosen to ignore the fact that contraception is medically prescribed for a variety of health reasons. Now, Limbaugh is experiencing what it means to be personally responsible and accountable for his misogynistic attack on Fluke—an attack motivated by her testimony before Congress supporting contraceptive coverage. Limbaugh may have also pushed the GOP political wagon over the edge when it comes to women voters.
According to Media Matters, the liberal watchdog group, at least 36 advertisers had pulled their ad dollars from Limbaugh’s show as of March 6th, including GEICO Insurance, Deere & Company, Stamps.com and AOL, to name a few. St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Connecticut withdrew its advertisements, citing, “We agree that Mr. Limbaugh’s recent derogatory comments regarding an individual testifying before Congress are not acceptable.” AOL spokeswoman Maureen Sullivan said, “We have monitored the unfolding events and have determined that Mr. Limbaugh’s comments are not in line with our values.” “Not acceptable,” and, “not in line with our values,” are kind words, considering Limbaugh demanded that Fluke post her sexual activities on the Internet in exchange for having her contraceptives included in her health coverage.
Yet, the Republican leadership failed to satisfactorily condemn Limbaugh’s malicious, hate-filled statement. House Speaker Boehner referred to Limbaugh’s language as “inappropriate.” “Inappropriate” is attending a black-and-white in denims and a T-shirt, not calling a woman a slut and a prostitute. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum referred to Limbaugh’s comments as “absurd,” but he added that an entertainer is allowed to be absurd. It would appear that absurdity has taken on a new meaning for Santorum; given that he believes that “…moms raising children in single-parent households [are] simply breeding more criminals.” Should we consider his comments absurd and entertaining? But of course he’s not an entertainer, or is he?
The interesting clincher came from leading presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he said, “I’ll just say this, which is, it’s not the language I would have used.” These are not words of condemnation, and while Romney turns the lens back on himself and refers to words he “would have used,” his political eye is on the prize; and that prize is the money and political support tied to Limbaugh. Romney and Limbaugh are on the same payroll. Romney continues to receive millions from Bain Capital, and Bain is co-owner of Clear Channel, the company responsible for Limbaugh’s $400 million, eight-year contract (it is in its fourth year). Another political consideration is the 14 million weekly listeners that tune into the Limbaugh’s show, a number that is down 6 million since 2003. Romney is simply being loyal to his money and support—something that shouldn’t surprise anyone, but at what costs?
Contraceptives may become the deciding factor come Election Day, and Limbaugh is pushing all the right buttons for the Obama campaign. Since the GOP’s attack on women’s contraceptives began, President Obama’s approval rating among women has increased 10 percent and, as of late February, stands at 53 percent. The Republican’s weak response to Limbaugh’s misogynistic attack on Fluke did nothing to change this shift in women’s support and may have alienated more women voters. It is interesting to note that Obama’s 2008 victory margin over McCain among women was 56 to 43 percent. Presently, projections on women’s support give Obama a 54 to 43 percent lead over Romney and a 56 to 40 percent lead over Santorum. Contraceptives may prove to be the Republican’s political downfall on Election Day.
Additionally, in a brave and unprecedented call to arms, Miranda Norman, a senior advisor to the largest progressive group of veterans in America, VoteVets.org, and other female veterans issued a press release this month calling for an end to Rush Limbaugh’s broadcast over the American Forces Network (AFN). The press release read in part, “Rush Limbaugh has a freedom of speech and can say what he wants, but in light of his horribly misogynistic comments, American Forces Radio should no longer give him a platform. Our entire military depends on troops respecting each other—women and men. There simply can be no place on military airwaves for sentiments that would undermine that respect.” If the AFN is serious about a respectful and cohesive military, it has little choice but to dismiss the likes of Limbaugh.
One must wonder if the post election headline will read, “Contraceptives Protect Obama’s Presidency?” Contraceptives—who would have guessed?