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. JollyGreenThumb

    I used to work for ProFlowers. STAY AWAY FROM THEM. They get you to call in by advertising a dozen roses for $19.99. Once you waste five minutes or more on the phone with a rep, you find out that shipping and handling come out to $23.99 or more on average. So now your $19.99 bouquet is $43.99. That is unless you want it sent on a holiday or weekend, then you can add even more MASSIVE fees. What people don’t understand about ProFlowers is that they send flowers via Fed Ex or UPS. They literally wrap them in a cardboard box and send them in the mail. Usually the flowers arrive damaged or dead. There are many more ways they scam you but I don’t have the space to write. Stay away from ProFlowers!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • William Nilliam

      And they sponsor Rush Limbaugh, right?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
  2. bored already

    Alll this hoopla over an invisible man in the sky. Religion is the biggest con of them all.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:57 am |
    • paintpaintpaint

      "Invisible man in the sky"??? Seriously? That's what you think people think God is? Hint: He is not 'in the sky' and he may not be a 'he'.....

      March 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Huh?

      "he may not be a 'he'....."

      Huh, I thought Adam was made in his image. LOL!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  3. james

    Civility, what civility? As long as people enjoy listening to trash Limbaugh will continue to talk trash. I can't see how and why people enjoy that.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:56 am |
  4. BR

    Idiot responses like yours are exactly why women have to keep fighting for women's health care. You clearly have no meaningful women, young or old in your life.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:55 am |
  5. Michael

    Rush does more to unite liberals against his diatribes than he does to unite conservatives for them. It would not surprise me if this was his real goal, that he is actually a serious Stephen Colbert.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • GodPot

      At least that's what Christians will claim as his closet full of crazy finally opens up for all to see just like they did with Hitler. Whenever one of their leaders shows their true colors they disown them and claim they weren't real Christians and must have been closet atheists or something...

      March 5, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  6. Evskie

    Rush Limbaugh had 3 wives and no children. He is either celibate in three relationships or a hypocrit. Limbaugh supporters, please tell me which it is.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • palintwit

      Maybe a dog bit his penis off.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Observer

      Rush lacks potency. His marriages are like Michael Jackson's.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • GodPot

      I think it might be an engineering problem. If gut over hang if 8 inches and penis length is 3 inches I'm thinking three wives may have been spared even Rushes preferred method of payment, the tip.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • moose

      UGH, you don't even know where Rush stands on this? He has no issues with birth control. The issue that Obama created was forcing a religion (The Catholic Church) to provide something they don't believe in. Many other Christian religions do not have the same belief in birth control. The whole issue the whole time has been on Relgious Freedom and the First Amendment. No one was after birth control as has been portrayed for the purposes of an election time ploy. THis is what is so frustrating with much of America, they don't know or understand what the issues are. Religious Freedom is and has been the issue, Flute is and was free to get birth control, but her issue is she doesn't want to pay for it herself. Wake up folks and get the issue straight.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • Harrys Putter

      The last big party Rush threw, he hired Elton John to play at his party.
      So much for gay hating.
      I wonder if his fans know ?

      March 5, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
  7. palintwit

    You can put Limbaugh in a large sack along with Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum and all the other GOP freaks and evangelical perverts. Then you proceed to beat the sack with a 2×4. You'll hit the right one every time.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  8. MB

    I am amazed at the number of people who have totally missed the point of this article.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • Doozer

      Yup, all Republicans.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
  9. ruetienne

    Limbaugh, Trump, the Tea Party, and all the haters in the G.O.P. appeal to the most ignorant citizens. No one will take your guns away by having common sense gun control. We're not going to turn into the Soviet Union by looking out for the welfare of all citizens by making affordable health care available. We're not less patriotic by spending money in our own country rather than senseless wars abroad. We're not extemists because we prefer clean air and water over greed, as it relates to the latest 'gold rush', fracking. And of course, the thought of contraceptives being an issue for Republicans reflects their true selves: Neanderthals

    March 5, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • moose

      Really? You believe this mumbo jumbo? You don't even know who made up this issue and what it really centers on? President Obama mandated that the Catholic Church start provinding birth control, something they don't believe in. Many Christian denomonations have no issue with birth control, but this is a long held Catholic belief. Obama created this 1st amendment issue over Relgious Freedom and seperation of Church and State, when he mandated that a Relgion change it's beliefs.
      Seriously you don't know that this is the issue that was created and who created it? You beleive this is about Republicans wanting to outlaw birth control? That is exactly what Obama wants you to believe for the election. It's not even true, but you bought it.
      For the sake of our Country, please understand the issue and how it has been portrayed as a made up election issue.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Doozer

      **** Really? You believe this mumbo jumbo? You don't even know who made up this issue and what it really centers on? President Obama mandated that the Catholic Church start provinding birth control................

      And the president backed down, but you morons wont let it go.
      The president did the right thing, but your side is running around
      screaming about religious rights being taken away, and THEY ARE NOT !!!!!!!!

      You people are pathetic.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Momof3

      @Moose – it's funny you keep cutting and pasting the comment that the catholic church is being forced to provide birth control, when they already teach birth control and family planning. Also, I'm sure you've heard and dis-regarded this before, but 98% of women who are catholic have reported using prescription or over the counter birth control at one point in their lives. I guess your argument really has no merits on either front!

      March 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  10. FedUp2

    The same advertisers (including Geogetown U) that pulled from Limbaugh's show have been direct sponsors of adult content being shared with children by predators online in the millions for over seven years on Flickr. They don't seem to have much issue with paying for that content, so why the new morals? Seems hypocritical, especially for a college that claimed Freedom of Speech is more important than ethics when it comes to the endless supply of nasty boom-boom pics they paid for kids to see.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  11. God doesn't like religion

    Rush did NOT apologize, one of his flunkies posted some words on his website. An apology would have been a phone call to Sandra Fluke and her family too. Rush needs to go, he is an angry old man past his usefulness and needs to retire.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • BR

      I say he knew long before he insulted Fluke on the air exactly what he was doing and that he would put some cowardly apology together. His job is ratings. I'm sure he gets a kick out of how easy his listeners are.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  12. GodPot

    "the Georgetown student who went before a congressional committee and said she’s having so much s e x, she’s going broke buying contraceptives and wants us to buy them. I said, “Well, what would you call someone who wants us to pay for her to have s e x?" – Rush

    The really sad part is that this shows how little the male Christian conservative knows about birth control. Rush seems to be under the impression that the pill costs more if you have s e x more, like you have to pop one each time or something. News flash to the idiot press, birth control pills cost the same if you have zero s e x or are "doing it" 24/7. Just one pill a day, every day, whether you have s e x or not.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      That's because the birth control the Rush wives use consists of this: "Get off me you fat whale". Seems to be working as he has never spawned.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • GodPot

      So you are saying that Rush is a walking, talking contraceptive? No wonder he's so angry at these chemical versions of himself...

      March 5, 2012 at 11:50 am |
  13. St Xavier

    The republican party has been silent about Rush Limbaugh trashing Ms. Flukes on the air for all to hear should tells you where the republican come's from. The women need to keep in mind when it come time for the election what party has they healthcare in mind certainly not the republican's.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • BR

      Your comment is a great opportunity to remind people to definitely get out and vote for Obama 2012!

      March 5, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • clarke


      March 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
  14. Martin Walters Seattle

    Who really believes Limbaugh’s apology is real? Oh please, maybe after he goes to counselling and drug rehab again. Future behaviour is best predicted by past behaviour and will remain so until his sponsors / listeners stop being the enablers they are and Limbaugh no longer is able to act with impunity.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • clarke

      It was so lame.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:48 am |
  15. dlr51

    Rush is right. Anyone who wants birth control pills can send their cleaning lady out to score some illegally!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • GodPot

      Not to defend Rush, but if you had to lie so much every day to get your paycheck you would likely be popping the anti-depressants like candy too.

      And remember, the Oxy he was taking can have the Psychiatric adverse effects "that include paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations." drugsdotcom/side.effects

      March 5, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  16. Jack spratz

    Gerogetown is an example of the axiom that religious education is a contradiction in terms! How anyone would go to such a place is a wonder; stupid people who lack an intellectual ability at all. The president of the university (sic) making a statement while denying insurance coverage to women is an affront; these religious nuts should be charged with intellectual fraud!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • clarke

      You just don't get it, do you.. It has gone beyond BC pills. Rush took it to another level.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  17. Mohammed Hye

    Enough is Rush enough. It is time for you to go

    March 5, 2012 at 11:31 am |
  18. Irene

    Howard Stern was less offensive.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      Howard Stern was controversial and funny at times. Rush is NEVER funny, just full of it.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:47 am |
  19. rose

    To the people who think that contraception is free through insurance.. how ignorant are you? You pay a copay for your meds, you pay either twice a month or once a month to the insurance company that your job uses. Where the hell is the free? NOTHING IS FREE if you have a job, and it's funny that VIAGRA never seems to have the RELIGOPOLITICAL crap to deal with the way the birth control pill does.

    March 5, 2012 at 11:28 am |
  20. WDinDallas

    Let's be analytical here: A 30 year old woman, still in law school (a prestigous and costly one at that), uses $1000 a year on contraceptives. To do that she would have to be on the pill and use a condom a day. That would be about $975 per year.

    She needs to spend more time studing and less time screwing. Here father is probably saying "my God, no wonder she has been in law school for 7 years. I just thought she was dumb. But she's been waiting for the next freshman class."

    March 5, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Another idiot brays.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • mark99er

      Your remark is pathetic, ignorant and plain bigotry!

      March 5, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Truthship

      How long have you been on Rush Limbaugh's staff?

      March 5, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • Rick

      You are so clueless.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • susan

      one mouth supply was over 40 dollars years ago when I was taking Birth control pills , that was almost 20 years ago. I am not sure what it cost now. Why should viagra be covered by insurance, It is not even medically necessary for a man to have erections.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:48 am |
    • God doesn't like religion

      Hey, Debbie Does Dallas....you are a member of the GOP, they can't add so stop trying.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • The Real Tom Paine

      How does your statement meets any definition of " analytical"? How about this one: overpaid, late middle-aged radio host, who is a college dropout, thrice-divorced and a drug addict, makes stupid, over-arching comment about a woman who testifies in front of Congress on a topic he knows very little about, and gets people with an equal lack of knowledge to defend him when it blows up in his face and costs his employers millions in advertising revenue. Is this person responsible in his statements? No. Do his irresponsible statments have weight? Yes, because no Republican with any stones is willing to call him out. He's just waiting for the next person for him to beat up on for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. And you mindlessly parrot back waht he says.

      March 5, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • BR

      The Real Tom Paine: Very well positioned.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • BR

      The Real Tom Paine: Very well positioned. WDInD, what do you know about anything? You are a victim of what The Real Tom Paine said. You, also, have no important women, young or old, in your life.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • clarke

      were you born this stupid or did it just happen.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • WhereIsPalin

      Stop listening to Limbaugh and research this issue. Then you can apologize for what you just posted.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Doozer

      What can you say.
      He is from Dallas, so its not surprising how stupid the post was.

      March 5, 2012 at 1:30 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.