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 • Opinion • Politics • Sex • Sexuality • United States

soundoff (730 Responses)
  1. Bachelor Bob

    Who should I pick?

    March 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Kourt Nee

      Me, ofcourse!

      March 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  2. stupid people believe what they don't understand because they don't read, or don't know how - which is worse?

    I may be cruel, but you shall love me as God. In the word of God. Praise be to God. And all that mumbo jumbo. Thanks be to me for reminding you that even God hates you. So smile and remember, under his tyranny you will never be free! Quote any part of the Bible you like, it will make no difference. If you believe in God then the history of God is your basis for belief. How can one make claims to without full knowledge of? With full knowledge how is it that any believe unless they already harbor hatred for a great many? Answer – most have never read the Bible. Those who have made one of two choices – ratiionalize it and believe based on interpretations or deny it and not believe. What do you get from this?

    March 5, 2012 at 7:29 pm |
  3. Groucho Marxist

    When Bozo speaks, 20 million clowns listen. Thankfully, his advertisers are listening to the rest of us.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • GodPot

      Soon his only advertisers left will be "Big Red Nose, INC." and "Shoe's Too Big, LLC"... even the Mime consortium has left the building, albeit slowly along an invisible rope...

      March 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • Susie

      None of Rush's national advertisers have quit. He has approx. 18000 local advertisers. You think you will make a dent with 20 or 30 advertisers quiting?

      March 8, 2012 at 7:02 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      Apparently the only thing Susie is capable of understanding is fairy tales. Over a dozen of Rush's national advertisers have stopped supporting him. Her statement here proves that reality is too much for her to deal with. What Rush said was completely out of line and offensive to women in every class of life.

      March 8, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  4. Bilbo Baggins

    The only thing I hate worse than that fat fascist women-hating pig Limbaugh is folks that can't express a thought without name calling. Or maybe I hate hypocracy more....hmmmmm. I'll check with the Daily Kos and get back to you.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
  5. Bye.Bye.Rush

    I think Fulke should file a lawsuit against Rush! Sue the pants off of him! Those are some REALLY BIG pants too...

    Toodles Mr. KKK!

    March 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  6. Hate_Limburger

    This fat, racist, Feminist pig is getting just what he deserves. We aren't being unfair. It's now past due! Let this fool fall!!!


    March 5, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • Observer

      Rush is a feminist?

      March 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • A Little Help

      Hate_Limburger is probably looking for a word like "misogynist". That's a label Rush Limbaugh already wears with pride.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Eric

      This fool should be banned from the air. Sponsors are dropping him. But I don't see radio stations doing the same. Where do they stand on this? Freedom of Speech does not mean that in the 21st century we need to have broadcasters that demean an individual without losing their job. Try to say what he did at your workplace and see how fast you lose your job.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    March 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • PAW


      March 5, 2012 at 5:50 pm |
    • 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 6:21 pm |
    • Wood Demons are not healthy for children and other living things

      Knocking on wood changes things... most often it changes a knuckle into a sore knuckle...

      March 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  8. Hate_Limburger

    I hate this fat racist, feminist pig! I swear you reap what you sow. So with that said, Limburger stinks just like the cheese, and is only about 2% on the reaping side. Let all the advertisers jump ship. Cancel his show! Fire him! Etc. Etc......

    That's just what you deserve!

    March 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  9. Td42

    Shouldn't we boycott Georgetown until they provide coverage?

    March 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  10. Cosmo

    Theres to many stupid people to take this country back. Kiss it goodbye.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  11. Bob Ramos

    When Rush went after public figures like politicians, movie stars and the like, the 1st Amendment protected him. When Rush went after private figures like Fluke, the 1st Amendment did not protect him. By attacking a private figure, he violated any number of slander laws and will eventually pay dearly in every which way.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm |
    • sam

      Free speech comes with the understanding that if people disagree with what you said (because you're a jerk), there will be pushback. If he can't deal he shouldn't be behind a microphone.

      March 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  12. DDanny1

    I'll try to save a whole lot of you some typing. Bill Maher is a COMEDIAN. David Letterman is a COMEDIAN. Jon Stewart is a COMEDIAN. Dennis Miller call both Obama's, Democrat politicians, Democrats supporters names 10X worse than Limbaugh ever DREAMED of saying on the air. The reason nobody goes after DENNIS MILLER is because he is a COMEDIAN.
    TOM CRUISE will sue into poverty anyone who publicly says he is gay except COMEDIANS because he knows he would LOSE. Southpark called Kanye West a GAY FISH about 100 times in a 1/2 hour because they are a COMEDY SHOW. They also insinuated that Tom Cruise is gay, Micheal Jackson a child molester, Paris Hilton someone who can "ingest" an uncut pineapple in a very disturbing way and that Hillary Clinton had a particular body part that could contain a nuclear weapon and still have room for an entire bomb disposal team. They were not sued because they are a COMEDY SHOW.
    Rush Limbaugh constantly reminds his listeners that everything he say is TRUE. That he is the ONLY ONE who ALWAYS tells the TRUTH. At no time has Limbaugh say he was a COMEDIAN. He does not do standup at casinos during the weekend because he IS NOT A COMEDIAN.

    March 5, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Kanye

      I like fishsticks. In my mouth. I still don't understand why it makes me a gay fish...

      March 5, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  13. Rambo

    When George Washington left the presidency he urge the American people not to form parties. People pick a political party as a god, and that is how Rush Limbaugh can make over 25 million a year on bashing the other party. People can be so attach to labels that it can polarize the country. We don't pick leaders for president all we do is pick sides – money picks our leaders.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Toshi

      Well said....well said

      March 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
  14. J.W

    I actually saw Michelle Bachmann on TV and she said that each individual should be able to choose what they want covered. I think it would be fair if they could do something like that. I don't know much about insurance, but if each indiviual had freedom that would be gnarly.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  15. glenn

    There are no words......Rush Limbaugh is an unadulterated pig.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  16. Luke

    Some things are not always said the way we wish to hear them but that does not make them irrelevant. War on words are wonderful things, though, they deflect from what needs to be determined- do we wish to grant the government, which may be as we want it now but may not be as we want it in the future, deing able to determine what ot how we do things in our bedrooms? Allowing access to things is one thing but once money is involved, those who contribute to others feel they get a say for holding the purse strings. The government can allow access but has no business telling anyone who has to pay for it. The easiest way around this is to make health spending accounts piggy back every plan available. Then let people decide for themselves what they will pay for and keep the government out. Essentially that was what Rusgh was attempting to say and that is valid, how he said it...he wouldd have to be a rapper and then the kids @ Georgetown would probably have bought the CD. 🙂

    March 5, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Good post, Luke. You're probably right.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Rachel

      Well said!

      March 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
  17. Loopman

    This snipy, conservative mouthpiece needs to learn that there are negative consequences for his bad actions. He shouldn't be shooting his big trap off about things that he can't do anything about. It would appear that the best way to hurt a rich republican is to hit them in the pocketbook, the same way Rush is being hit with his sponsors jumping ship.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  18. JC in Western U.S.

    I didn't get much response to my request for a list of companies who are still advertising on Limbaugh's show, so I did a little homework and got a partial list to share.

    AOL, one of Limbaugh's most significant advertisers announced today (about 3 hrs. ago) that they have pulled advertising from his show. Tax Resolution Services has also pulled its ads.

    Here are some companies that remain as advertisers. This is not a complete list, and we need to stay informed because some of these companies may pull advertising in the coming hours and days. So pay attention to the news so that you know which companies to deny business to (or, if you're a Limbaugh fan, to support)

    As of 2:30 p.m. Western Time, these companies are still advertisers with Limbaugh:

    Inverness Medical
    Red Lobster
    Lumber Liquidators

    As I said, that's probably not a complete list. If anybody wants to add to it, reply below.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • J.W

      Well at least the only one of those I use is Scottrade, but I don't really give them anything. I just kind of have shares of stock sitting in there.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • J.W

      Well Red Lobster is good, even though I do not eat there often. Maybe eventually they will pull there ads so I can eat there again.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    • Oreck? Is that Oreck vacuums? I studied aikido with the son of the Oreck founder. I'll have to look him up again.

      March 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  19. Carl

    When is CNN going to become Fair & Balanced. They don;t give the same emphasis on comments made by guys like Maher, Schultz, It just shows that they are in the tank for this upcoming election.

    March 5, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
    • Steve

      So it is okay to be vile if someone else does it first?

      March 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  20. cbridge

    SHUT UP ! ! !

    March 5, 2012 at 4:46 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 with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.