If you have been living on another planet since February 23rd you might not have heard about Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University who had the temerity to believe that the new federal law mandating health insurance coverage for contraceptives prescribed by a female policyholder’s physician should be enforced even if it offends her employer. On his daily radio show Limbaugh called her a “slut,” suggested she was a prostitute, and demanded that she provide videos of having sex as the price of her conviction.
…the best way to deal with somebody like Rush Limbaugh is to ignore him, the way you might avoid calling attention to a toddler who has just puked all over your new sofa or a demented great-uncle who starts spewing racial epithets at the Thanksgiving table.
There is much to be said for this approach. Ignoring isolated assaults on civility generally diminishes their impact and accelerates their transit to oblivion. Drawing attention to the offender, or insisting that others join in a formal denunciation of his indiscretion, tends to accomplish exactly the opposite.
The danger is that what passes for discreet silence when boorish behavior is overlooked once or twice may be interpreted as acquiescence when it such behavior goes unremarked again and again.
So, at the considerable risk of prolonging the provocation-reaction cycle on which all demagogues thrive, I’d like to propose that it is time for politicians, commentators, and sponsors who wish to remain in good standing as members of the civilized world to put some distance between themselves and the hate-mongering sociopath who calls himself Rush Limbaugh.
If Limbaugh had spewed his misogynistic slander from a street corner in Detroit or New York, we might step around him, in much the same way we’d avoid a pile of dog excrement left inconsiderately in the middle of the sidewalk.
But he did it on a nationally syndicated radio show distributed by a broadcaster (owned, by the way, by Bain Capital) that charges advertisers millions of dollars to reach Limbaugh’s considerable audience.
So when he calls our daughters, wives, sisters and mothers sluts and prostitutes, he’s getting paid to do so, and lots of other people we generally consider to be members of civil society are going along for the ride.
[UPDATE Saturday 7:31 pm PDT: Limbaugh Apologizes]
Today, Rush Limbaugh issued an apology on his website for his attack on Sarah Fluke:
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. … 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.
UPDATE 3:43 PDT SUNDAY: Seventh Sponsor Withdraws
This from MSNBC:
ProFlowers said Sunday on its Facebook page that it has suspended advertising on Limbaugh's program because his comments about Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke "went beyond political discourse to a personal attack and do not reflect our values as a company."
The six other advertisers that say they have pulled ads from his show are mortgage lender Quicken Loans, mattress retailers Sleep Train and Sleep Number, software maker Citrix Systems Inc., online data backup service provider Carbonite and online legal document services company LegalZoom.
ProFlowers had said on Twitter that posts it received about Limbaugh's remarks affected its advertising strategy. ProFlowers is an online flower delivery service.