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My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake
Rush Limbaugh apologized on Saturday for his "insulting word choices" targeting Georgetown University student Sandra Fluke.
March 4th, 2012
07:40 AM ET

My Take: Georgetown backs Fluke vs. Limbaugh for civility's sake

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Civility is hard to find in American politics nowadays, but one Roman Catholic university is doing what it can to dial things back a bit.

On Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh blasted Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student who testified before Congress in favor of contraceptive coverage in health plans, as a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Friday, President John J. DeGioia of Georgetown University, in a public message called "On Civility and Public Discourse," praised Fluke for providing “a model of civil discourse.”

DeGioia took no position on the question that started this latest skirmish in our ongoing culture wars: contraceptive coverage in health care. But he did not mince words when it came to Limbaugh, who doubled down on Thursday by saying, “I will buy all of the women at Georgetown University as much aspirin to put between their knees as they want.”

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DeGioia wrote that Limbaugh’s behavior was “misogynistic, vitriolic, and a misrepresentation of the position of our student.”

Meanwhile, over 100 professors and staff members at Georgetown University Law Center signed a letter supporting Fluke. "As scholars and teachers who aim to train public-spirited lawyers, no matter what their politics, to engage intelligently and meaningfully with the world, we abhor these attacks on Ms. Fluke and applaud her strength and grace in the face of them," the letter says.

In a sign that U.S. politics really has turned sharply from economic debates to cultural warfare, President Obama called Fluke to offer his support just before she was to talk on NBC with Andrea Mitchell.

Carly Fiorina, National Republican Senatorial Committee vice-chairwoman, appearing on CBS, called Limbaugh’s language “insulting,” “incendiary,” and “a distraction from what are very real and important issues.” A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, saying, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate, as is trying to raise money off the situation.” Meanwhile, Rick Santorum told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Limbaugh’s comments were “absurd.”

Limbaugh apologized to Fluke on Saturday, saying a statement on his website, “I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Both Fluke and DeGioia, however, focused on this battle as a moment in the rapid degradation of our common life.

Fluke told MSNBC's "The Ed Show" that Limbaugh's remarks were "outside the bounds of civil discourse."

Similarly, DeGioia’s overall message was a call to return to a tradition of tolerance that some conservatives, at least, have forgotten to conserve.

This tradition runs deep in the American grain, from Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address (“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies”) to John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (“Civility is not a sign of weakness”).

But DeGioia ended with St. Augustine: “Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

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Filed under: Catholic Church • Church and state • Culture wars • Health care • My Take • Opinion • Politics • Sex • Sexuality • United States

soundoff (730 Responses)
  1. Leprechaun

    If I were this young girl I would sue his ears off. I believe completely in free speech, but this goes beyond the fringe. What about HER rights to express an opinion. I ,PERSONALLY, would like to see him and his ilk off the air – he totally revolts me! And that is MY opinion!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Sam

      Really beyond the fringe of what? You believe in free speech as long as it's what you want to hear. Should you be sued for what you just posted? Get a grip.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Marion

      Sam doesn't understand what "beyond the fringe" means. It means he SLANDERED HER....get it yet? free speech does not include SLANDER. I will be very disappointed if she doesn't sue him.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Paul

    Hey Georgetown, my recommendation is that you ask Rush to send a thousand cases of aspirin to your health clinic. After all, he made a very public promise to buy all the aspirin you want. If he refuses, sue him.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  3. MaryM

    sorry for the double post. computer froze

    March 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  4. BE in TN

    A lot of decent people died last week during the tornado outbreak but Rush Limbaugh is still alive. There is something dreadfully wrong with this picture.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • GodPot

      More proof of God's non-existence...

      March 5, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      God doesn't want him, he works for the Devil.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  5. MaryM

    Rush is a perfect example of the disease that has infected the Republican party of Today.
    You have lost your way Rush and GOP. You are Ill.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Hasa Diga Eebowai

      The GOP's fault. They embrace nut cases like this for immediate attention... It is all catching up to them as the party will fall apart in the next decade. Shame because outside the social conservative loony bin there are many important conservative philosophies that will be lost.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:20 am |
  6. MaryM

    Rush is the perfect example of the diseased that has infected the Republican party of today.
    You have lost your way Rush and GOP. You are ill

    March 5, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Sam

      You have anything meaningful to say or just name calling? I thought not. You are the sick one.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Marion

      Sam, Sam, Sam.....you think that saying someone is "Ill" is "name calling"? Go away until you can come up with a meaningful post.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
  7. Georgetown Student

    As a Graduate student in Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, I could not be more proud or humbled by the class and civility with which Sandra Fluke testified on the Hill. Moreover, a sense of hope was renewed in me upon reading the message from Georgetown President DeGioia, who boldly stood up not just for a fellow student, but for all women. Let us take this time to reflect upon where we are and where we are headed as a country if discourse like this is permitted, both from the Right and from the Left. To be sure, this should not even be a partisan issue at all – it is one that speaks to our culture and to our humanity. Now that the debate has surfaced, it is time to re-examine our values and move forward appropriately with courage, understanding and civility, the very qualities that have made this country great.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • momoya

      Thanks for your excellent post!

      March 5, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • RogersParkRob

      So Georgetown President DeGioia has changed the policy?

      March 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • sammy zoso

      Now is not the time to be polite. She needs to fight back and go to court. File a complaint with the FCC, if they still exist. Anything, something but take some action.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Mrs b

      I agree that it is time to examine our values. I am very proud of the Georgetown response.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • Marion

      Sandra Fluke has more class, integrity, intelligence and guts than anyone could ever show. She has so much class I would bet she will not sue him because she doesn't want to escalate the situation FOR THE COUNTRY'S SAKE! I am in total admiration of her.

      March 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
  8. AE Pucc

    PLEASE "Off The Pigs" stop insulting pigs by equating them to Limbaugh, they are the smartest barn yard animal & in a lot of ways are similar to us. POWER TO THE PIGS!!!!!!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:06 am |
  9. Joe The Plumber

    Still waiting for the evangelicals to honor their reglious convictions and denounce this GOP de facto leader.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      Evangelicals feel the same way as Rush, they believe, they have faith in Rush.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  10. Stephen

    Georgetown University should be worring about the amount of time its students are spending having S ex, not trashing Limbaugh for bringing this obvious widespread problem to the attention of the world. Contraception issues would not be a problem for young women if they would practice a little more abstinence. Lets' put the onus on their se x partners to provide their contraception needs not the tax payers. Promoting the uncontrolled proliferation of recreational se x is just wrong! Period!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:04 am |
    • BRC

      You realise that by attempting to increase the availibility of contraceptives and providing increased medical support to women they are attempting to add a layer of control to your percieved "recreational sx" problem right?

      March 5, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Jim in Georgia

      You,Sir, Have no business on this forum.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      A bonafide Santorum supporter that thinks s e x is naughty and should only be done for procreation. Did you miss the s e xual revolution? I feel sorry for you. When you meet your maker he will be mad at you for NOT enjoying the gift he gave you.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Chris R

      You really don't have se x very often do you? Hi, these people are adults and as such they can do as they please as long as it isn't illegal. It's *NOT* your place to tell them what they can do. Or do you think people should be able to tell you what to do, what to think, and how to spend your time. Repeat after me, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Try following the Word instead of just reading it.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • BR

      Do you live in a cave with no human contact? Who died and made you God?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Doozer

      Dear Stepehn,

      Pull up your pants, spit out the cheetos
      and take your finger out of your nose.

      Why do we let six year olds post ?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  11. Jilli

    "A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner was more measured, saying, “The speaker obviously believes the use of those words was inappropriate"

    What an absolute coward. First, he couldn't make the lame statement himself – secondly, I wonder what words would have been more appropriate in labeling Ms. Fluke a sl ut? Saying his words were "inappropriate" does not denounce the intention. An absolute coward – just like Romney and Santorum who dismissed the incivility by claiming rush is an "entertainer" and by stating that those were not the words he would have chosen. I'm astounded at their lack of courage in standing up for respect and common decency.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:01 am |
  12. james pfeiffer

    Rush Limbaugh is a pig. His sad, little piglet comments have served to help guide our beloved country into the sewer. But the real issue is...how many people dutifully gulp down his vitriolic swill day after day. Have we become so lost as a nation that someone with Limbaugh"s limited, perverse and hateful view of the world is even, for one tiny moment, considered as intelligent discourse? Rush Limbaugh is a pig and a bully manipulator. He's laughing all the way to the bank while getting fatter and fatter (literally) in a society where too many people actually confuse anything this dope says as important. I would gladly pay my taxes to help the women and men of this country with birth control needs as a universal right...just as a vile jughead like Rush Limbaugh enjoys the privileges of national free speech.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      Pigs are nice, he is pig excrement.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  13. Joe The Plumber

    George Will has it right – the GOP can takl tough about Iran but are weak kneee girly guys when it comes to their de factor leader Rush!

    March 5, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Sam

      I see and so someone like Bill Ayers is the Democratic Defacto leader right? He is one man who said something he shouldn't have and you judge everyone as a result, typical liberal hypocrisy. Amazing you guys are all about free speech as long as it's something you want to hear.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  14. sam

    I don`t like calling Rush Pig ,a Pig is much better Animal then him I think he is just Virus. Republicans have you no shame ?

    March 5, 2012 at 10:54 am |
  15. DumpTheGOP

    The GOP says this is about "religious freedom." They I guess they have no objection to Mormons practicing Polygamy, right?

    March 5, 2012 at 10:50 am |
  16. israel

    Rush
    He should blame it on his drags
    crack head

    March 5, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things.

    March 5, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • Jesus

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.

      March 5, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Primewonk

      Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!
      Lovely spam! Wonderful spam!
      Spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam spa-a-a-a-a-am spam.
      Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam! Lovely spam!
      Spam spam spam spam!

      March 5, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • Rebecca

      Prayer doesn't change anything. Hard work, ambition, and determination change things. Employ your method and then mine and see which one works out better for you.

      March 5, 2012 at 10:57 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      I pray Rush loses all his sponsors and ends up homeless on the street begging for Oxy from his card board box.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  18. Orwell seen it before

    Nazis march in Skokie.
    Rush goose steps on the radio.
    Clear Channel Inc makes money on it.

    March 5, 2012 at 2:00 am |
  19. G kaplan, MD

    Its about time we discuss family planning.
    Huff post mentions 98% of Catholics prefer contraception to avoid abortions.

    In 1994, the UN agreed 100% that OVERPOPULATION is THE GREATEST threat to humanity. Now, they fear it is too late to solve this.

    Over population equates to:
    diminishing resources, causing higher prices.
    too many compete for same jobs, so unemployment is increasing
    Loss of Jobs cause economic collapse, failed states, revolts and war.
    Government's chief science advisor Dr. Beddington warns of a "perfect storm" of food, energy and water shortages by 2030.
    Unless we heed this warning, humanity like the dinosaurs, will also become extinct in about 100 years!! ( Dr. Fenner- chicken pox)

    HOW CAN LIMBAUGH SHOW SUCH IGNORANCE and DISRESPECT, AND BE STILL ADORED BY REPUBLICANS?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7952348....
    http://www.uncsd2012.org/rio20/index.php?page=view&nr...39 – Cached – Similar
    http://www.lifewatchgroup.org

    March 5, 2012 at 12:15 am |
    • Mike

      Liberal Family Planning: Use contraception paid by insurance. (Shouldn't condoms also be free?). If contraception fails or it's not used, abort babies. It's cheaper to abort than to raise a child. Anyways we don't want too many children because of overpopulation. If overpopulation is a problem, then China has the right policy. We are going that way any way. The GOVERNMENT is dictating what we can do and not do.

      March 5, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      BAloney. Piled high, wide and deep. As usual, Mikey.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:30 am |
    • BR

      Of course, you are correct. The only thing that drives Republicans is not jobs, education, religious freedom for all...is their hatred of our President. Putting a whack job the likes of Romney or Santorum trumps everything that good for America.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  20. Off The Pigs!

    No one in American politics more resembles a pig than Rush Limbaugh. He is the most porcine mud-wallower out there.

    March 4, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Russian Judge

      A '10' for using "porcine."

      March 5, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      Pigs are nice and quite intelligent, Rush is pig excrement, he is the feces of the GOP, oops I meant face.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Arnold Ziffle

      Oinkers unite.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.