Rush Limbaugh: The Descent of (a) Man

Feminist victories continue to pile up in the wake of Rush Limbaugh’s attack on Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown law student who testified in favor of the Affordable Health Care Act’s contraceptive coverage regulation and was subsequently labeled a slut and a prostitute by the broadcaster.

The social media response was immense: the #FlushRushNow campaign on Twitter, the activism of tweeters such as @Boycott Rush and @StopRush, petitions started by UltraViolet, ThinkProgress and individuals such as Jodi Jacobson, plus numerous calls to action on Facebook, convinced  sponsors of Limbaugh’s radio show to swiftly desert him. The total number of advertisers to withdraw currently stands at 36, with more expected to follow.

Limbaugh issued an apology, but his statement could hardly be construed as anything approaching genuine contrition. Far from acknowledging his grossly inappropriate language, he brushed it off by claiming, “I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation.” Further, he added, I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.” But even a kindergartner could tell you that when you call someone names (and, say, ask them to post sex tapes on the Internet, as Limbaugh also did), it surely is an attack, and surely personal.

Limbaugh finished his mea culpa with a surefire method for weaseling out of misogynistic responsibility–the “I was only joking” stratagem: “My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir.” All this before he even got around to uttering the words “I … apologize.”

If you agree that Limbaugh’s comments and his subsequent failure to take responsibility for them are reprehensible, you may want to drop a line to the companies who have withdrawn support from Limbaugh’s show and thank them for their commitment to respecting women.

The fight is not over, however. As of this writing, Limbaugh still retains sponsorships from Insperity, Amberen, United Health Care Group, Mission Pharmacal Company, Life Quotes Inc., Lear Capital Inc., Mid-West Life Insurance Company of Tennessee and the American Forces Network. Find out how to contact these companies and ask that they stand by women here.

In an interesting move, Michael O’ Shea, the president of KGMI Radio, which airs The Rush Limbaugh Show, has openly asked the public for feedback on the issue–feel free to give him a piece of your mind here.

If any further proof were required about Limbaugh’s paleolithic attitude towards women, he demonstrated it again yesterday when he mused on-air, “What is it with all of these young, single white women? Overeducated doesn’t mean intelligent.” (He was referring to award-winning investigative journalist Tracie McMillan, author of the new book The American Way of Eating.) It would appear Rush Limbaugh has no intention of curtailing his attacks on women; therefore no feminist should back down from challenging his misogyny.

Above: screenshot of the Twitter feed Stop Rush Limbaugh.



  1. “Overeducated”??? Because we’re women or because we’re more educated than he is? Or both?

  2. I sent a letter to KMGI and got a response from Michael Shea about it. I’m pretty proud of the letter, and found out about the letterwriting campaign from this article, so figured I’d share it here:

    “I feel as if I don’t need to send you a lengthly letter illustrating the flaws in Rush’s address of the issue of contraception. They’re self-evident. However, I commend you for asking the public, and, in effect, people who likely have never listened to Rush’s vitriol over the airwaves, but only accessed it second-hand when he insults a large enough portion of the American public and his words are aired on mainstream newspapers and television programs. That said, I will offer my opinion on his words, making sure that you know beforehand that I have never, and will never, listen to his program, and am only writing to you as someone who is influenced by his words secondhand (as it cannot be denied that what he and other conservative commentators effects Republican and conservative policymakers and, in effect, the public that is affected by those laws).

    Here goes: Rush’s comments were, to start, blatantly, grossly, and insanely sexist. I know he claims his hatred is steeped in “comedy,” but that brand of comedy should have been rendered moot when Americans came around to realizing the way Vaudeville’s Jim Crow harmed and falsely stereotyped blacks. As it is, Rush still finds an audience for his bigoted slander. The size of that audience is what concerns me more than the words he uses. You can hear comments similar to his in any brothel or low-GPA frathouse: what upsets me is the fact that this is not just a few people hearing his drivel.

    As a widely-publicized figure, Rush should have more accountability for what he says. Calling women who want to have sex without getting pregnant “sluts” and women who want their healthcare to cover the contraception they need “prostitutes” is disgusting. What’s more disgusting is that these ideas, which are more fitted to a Wahhabi hangout than a radio show in the US, are being spread to the public. There’s a thing called the general will and this will of all. I’m sure you know of it. Rush can convince his millions of listeners that women having some modicum of equality by being able to pursue their careers AND have sex, instead of having to choose between spinsterhood and barefoot-and-pregnant may be the will of all, if he can get a large enough listening base, but it is nowhere near the general will, or the idea that would best advance society.

    By spreading sexist ideas and condoning regressive policies in the name of “individual freedom” (to which I ask, freedom for which individuals?), Rush is doing his best to send us back to the 1890’s, when 52% of the country’s opinion was deemed irrelevant by most of the voting public (men), and women had pretty much one of three lifestyles they could follow: wife, nurse, or teacher. Disregarding 52% of the citizens of the country, 52% of the people’s opinions, and 52% of the possible new ideas based on silly ideas of gender roles is the opposite of the country’s general will.

    But enough slippery sloping. Rush may not be advocating for pre-19th Amendment gender roles, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s the next thing he does. He is, however, degrading the majority of the country’s women (liberal or conservative, I’m pretty sure that most women of reproductive age use contraception and most women would prefer it be covered by their insurance) to two inaccurate and degrading slurs: “slut” and “prostitute.” It’s not even about the terms he uses. I’m sure if a woman preaching celibacy came before Congress, he’d call all celibate women “prudes” and “teases,” and we’d have a completely different issue regarding the same string of sexism on our hands. As it is, I’m upset that Rush does three things: that he creates big, scary outgroups of anyone who isn’t mentioned in Locke’s idea of freedom (rich, white men); that he advises the Locke-rs (read: Tea Party) to defend their freedom for those groups when, in reality, freedom for the underprivileged simply increases the freedom for all by ensuring that, within reason, statuses out of our control (such as our sex and sexuality) will not bar us from enjoying the American Dream; and, lastly, that he has such a huge audience, and that he so brazenly misuses his influence to take away the dignity of people unlike him.

    So yes, his comments upset people. But we’re less upset at them and more seizing the opportunity to point out the deep flaws of this deeply influential man.

    You probably won’t do more than give him a slap on the wrist, if you do that. But this isn’t about you doing anything: it’s about me taking this opportunity that you gave me (that is, to tell you how I feel) to point out the reasons why, I think, those comments ignited such a fire among the reasonable people in this country.”

    • Becky, what a fantastic letter. Well done for responding to Michael Shea with such a clear statement of exactly what is wrong with Limbaugh’s comments and his continued presence on the airwaves. I’m glad the article spurred you to write.

  3. Mr Limbaugh acted in this episode like a wild boar in a forest, lusting to attack anything that looks attractive, and is not armed with fangs and claws.
    The substance of his attack is complete without the coarse language–slut–let him remove any offensive language and the substance and logic of the attack remains. In fact he seems to defend it.

    • If you believe that there is any logic in attacking a woman who believes birth control is a right which should not be subject to religious bias, then I am not sure this feminist blog is the right place for you.

      Birth control is preventative care, which protects women’s health and their autonomy over their bodies. Birth control prevents unwanted pregnancies – an aim that must be supported by anyone who believes in the value of population control in a world whose resources are already stretched to breaking point. Any society which wants to function efficiently is pro-birth control. As is any society that truly respects and believes in women.

      As for who should pick up the tab, that’s what health insurance is for. Employees pay into a scheme, and they are covered. Sandra Fluke was not asking taxpayers to fund her birth control, as Limbaugh claimed. She was simply supporting a new provision in the law that would allow contraceptives to be provided directly to the insured regardless of the religious affiliation of that person’s school or employer. So, the ‘substance and logic’ of Limbaugh’s attack, which was that Fluke was asking to be ‘paid for having sex’ is completely false. She was simply asking that religious groups are not able to dictate what medical coverage a woman should and shouldn’t receive.

      • I took John’s comment to mean that simply apologizing for the specific language used (slut and prostitute) doesn’t cover Rush’s butt because no matter the words used, his message is the same. While the language he used was deplorable, so was his entire statement.

  4. Wonderful column about a horrible man.

  5. I cannot see that Limbaugh was attacking “women” so much as certain categories of women. That’s a big difference, but some people are adept at glossing over such things. . . are they not?

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