Rush Labels Law Student Who Supports Birth Control Coverage a ‘Slut’

Offender: Rush Limbaugh on the Rush Limbaugh Radio Show

Media Outlet: Aired on radio stations nationwide 2/29/12 – syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks, a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications

The Offense: Rush had this to say: “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex.”

NOW’s Analysis: Limbaugh was talking about Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who conservatives refused to allow to testify at a Feb. 16 congressional hearing about birth control. Fluke would have been the only panelist testifying in favor of policy requiring that employers, including religiously affiliated universities like Georgetown, provide their employees and students with health care plans that fully cover contraception. A week later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi organized a separate hearing at which Fluke was able to give her testimony in full.

On his radio show, Limbaugh continually misrepresented Fluke’s testimony, repeatedly claiming she said that she (and other students) are “having so much sex, she can’t afford her own birth control pills.” First, Fluke said nothing of the kind. Second, does Limbaugh understand how birth control pills work? That the amount of sexual activity a woman engages in has no bearing on the cost of her pills?

It doesn’t matter what Limbaugh really thinks or believes, of course. It’s all about his intent — which is to shame and ridicule a woman who was speaking in the public arena about women’s right to reproductive health care. Limbaugh showed his disrespect by continually calling Fluke by the wrong first and last name, including referring to her as Flake. Limbaugh also got in a dig at Pelosi, dubbing her the “Botox-filled Nancy Pelosi.”

These insults, as Rep. Carolyn Maloney has pointed out, are meant to scare women away from standing up for themselves and demanding their rights. Calling a forthright, unapologetic woman a slut is an age-old tactic that never seems to go out of style. One of the reasons women are still unequal is because our society continues to judge them based on their sexual activity, appearance, age and other characteristics that are not used to disparage men in the same way. We must speak out when we see examples of this kind of bias, otherwise it will never go away.

One final point: If this had been someone on MSNBC calling a conservative woman a slut, you can bet that right-wingers would be calling for their head right now. It will be interesting to see if any conservatives call out their buddy Rush Limbaugh for his offensive comments.

Take Action: Contact Clear Channel at publicrelations@clearchannel.com and tell them how you feel about Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke.

Updates
3/1/12: Limbaugh suggests on his show that if Fluke wants contraception to be fully covered, she should post videos of herself having sex online so Limbaugh and others can watch.

3/2/12: NOW issues a statement calling on Clear Channel to take Limbaugh off the air.

3/3/12: Limbaugh issues a non-apology apology.

3/5/12: Nine advertisers have now pulled their commercials from Limbaugh’s show. His employer, Clear Channel, still stands behind him. Write to Clear Channel now at publicrelations@clearchannel.com.

Rush blames “the left” and the president’s “socialist agenda” for his slurs against Sandra Fluke.

3/6/12: As of this afternoon there are a total of 32 companies (according to ThinkProgress) that have either pulled their ads from Limbaugh’s show or have made sure that their ads will not air during the program. Additionally, two radio stations have dropped the program from their line-up — KPUA of Hilo, Hawaii and 1420 AM WBEC of Pittsfield, Mass.

Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director, March 1, 2012

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