Photo: Courtesy of CSPAN
Rush Limbaugh is no stranger to controversy. The incendiary radio host makes his fortune attacking his political enemies with impolitic statements. So he may be a tad taken aback by the week-long media firestorm he ignited by calling Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student, a “slut.” The subsequent fallout — involving denunciations from conservatives, a rare apology from Rush, and a call to Fluke from President Obama — has been brutal. And with advertisers fleeing his show, Limbaugh is feeling the pain in his pocketbook as well. How did we get here? Here, a concise timeline:February 16
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) rejects a Democratic request to let Fluke testify at a congressional hearing on government rules requiring employers to offer insurance coverage for contraception. Issa’s decision sparks a heated controversy, with Democrats claiming that he is denying women a voice in the debate.
Fluke testifies before an unofficial hearing convened by Democrats. She criticises the health insurance policies of Georgetown, a Jesuit university, saying the school’s lack of contraception coverage has a harmful impact on female students. “I’m an American woman who uses contraceptives,” she declares.
The conservative blogosphere begins attacking Fluke. CNS News runs a story under the headline “Sex-crazed co-eds going broke buying birth control, student tells Pelosi hearing touting freebie mandate.”
Hot Air picks up the Fluke story, under the headline “Georgetown co-ed: Please pay for us to have sex… We’re going broke buying birth control.”
Limbaugh slams Fluke on his show, claiming that she is asking the government to subsidise her sex life. “What does that make her?” he asks. “It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”
Amid a chorus of criticism, Limbaugh doubles down: “If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is: We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says Limbaugh’s comments were “inappropriate.” Several advertisers announce that they are bailing on Limbaugh’s show. President Obama calls Fluke to express his support.
Limbaugh posts a statement online in which he publicly apologizes to Fluke for his “insulting word choices.” “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir,” he says. Contenders for the Republican nomination weigh in: Rick Santorum tells CNN that Limbaugh was “being absurd,” while Mitt Romney says “it’s not the language I would have used.” Software company Carbonite becomes the sixth company to drop its Limbaugh ads.
Appearing on ABC’s The View, Fluke says Limbaugh’s apology is insufficient. Limbaugh apologizes again, saying he “acted too much like the leftists who despise me.” Internet giant Aol announces it will no longer advertise on Limbaugh’s show, one of 12 companies to do so since the controversy began.
ThinkProgress reports that a whopping 26 advertisers have now bailed on Limbaugh’s show. At a White House press conference, President Obama says Limbaugh’s comments “don’t have any place” in public discourse, and that he can’t judge the sincerity of Rush’s apology. I don’t know “what’s in Rush Limbaugh’s heart,” the president says.
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