Rush Limbaugh’s verbal attack on law student’s use of contraception stirs outrage

Here and Now

Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke said on the Today Show recently that she was stunned by Rush Limbaugh’s recent attacks on her.

On Wednesday, Limbaugh called the woman a slut and a prostitute, saying that Fluke wanted Americans to subsidize her sex life by paying for her contraception. Thursday, Limbaugh said Fluke should post videos of her sex life online, because the public was paying for her birth control.

“Very quickly you’re outraged because this is historically the kind of language that’s used to silence women,” Fluke said on the Today Show. “Especially when women stand up and say these are their reproductive healthcare needs.”

Sandra Luke speaks to the Today Show about Limbaugh’s comments.

Fluke supported a provision in President Barack Obama’s health plan that would require insurers to provide coverage for contraceptives. Fluke appeared at an unofficial Congressional hearing after she was turned away from testifying about women’s access to contraception at an all-male panel hearing. She said a fellow student ended up losing an ovary, because she couldn’t afford contraceptives which would have prevented cysts from growing.

On Friday, Obama called Fluke to “offer his support to her. He wanted to express his disappointment that she has been the subject of inappropriate personal attacks and to thank her for exercising her rights as a citizen to speak out on an issue of public policy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, along with a half-dozen other members of Congress, repudiated Limbaugh for his “vicious attacks” against Fluke. And Carly Fiorini, the National Republican Senatorial Committee Vice-Chairman, said on CBS’s “This Morning” that the language is insulting and distracting from the issue.

Limbaugh is known for making incendiary comments on his radio program but David Mark, senior editor for Politico, said this is the first time he’s heard that he’s struck a nerve so much that a sponsor withdrew from his program. Sleep Train Mattress Centers pulled its advertising after being inundated with protests. And Friday afternoon, Dan Gilbert, the owner of Quicken Loans as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers, announced on his Twitter account that Quicken had suspended its advertising on Limbaugh’s show.

“I think that is something new. Whether or not it’s a stampede remains to be seen,” Mark said. “The bottom line is Rush Limbaugh is still a huge deliverer of ratings. He’s got lots of followers, so, I hate to say it, it’s a business decision. No matter how distasteful his comments have been.”

Mark said the words Limbaugh used were extremely personal — which has led many Republicans to distance themselves from Limbaugh as well. Take Fiorini, who criticized Limbaugh for diverting attention from the issue itself.

“A lot of Republicans just don’t think that’s helpful to their cause,” Mark said.

Mark said many conservatives believe contraception and access to it is a settled issue — and discussing it just makes it more likely that Republicans won’t be able to get the electoral wins in November that they want.

Some conservatives have even blamed Rick Santorum’s lost momentum for his focus on contraceptives.

“This really isn’t a partisan, conservative versus liberal issue. It’s just something no one was even discussing until a few weeks ago,” Mark said. “And it’s an absolutely a losing issue for Santorum and, if they’re not careful, for some of the other Republicans as well.”

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